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Title: Sintram and His Companions
Author: La Motte-Fouqué, Friedrich Heinrich Karl, Freiherr de, 1777-1843
Language: English
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SINTRAM AND HIS COMPANIONS

By Friedrich de la Motte Fouque

with foreword by Charlotte M. Yonge



Introduction


Four tales are, it is said, intended by the Author to be appropriate to
the Four Seasons: the stern, grave "Sintram", to winter; the tearful,
smiling, fresh "Undine", to Spring; the torrid deserts of the "Two
Captains", to summer; and the sunset gold of "Aslauga's Knight", to
autumn. Of these two are before us.

The author of these tales, as well as of many more, was Friedrich, Baron
de la Motte Fouque, one of the foremost of the minstrels or tale-tellers
of the realm of spiritual chivalry--the realm whither Arthur's knights
departed when they "took the Sancgreal's holy quest,"--whence Spenser's
Red Cross knight and his fellows came forth on their adventures, and in
which the Knight of la Mancha believed, and endeavoured to exist.

La Motte Fouque derived his name and his title from the French Huguenot
ancestry, who had fled on the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. His
Christian name was taken from his godfather, Frederick the Great,
of whom his father was a faithful friend, without compromising his
religious principles and practice. Friedrich was born at Brandenburg on
February 12, 1777, was educated by good parents at home, served in the
Prussian army through disaster and success, took an enthusiastic part
in the rising of his country against Napoleon, inditing as many
battle-songs as Korner. When victory was achieved, he dedicated his
sword in the church of Neunhausen where his estate lay. He lived there,
with his beloved wife and his imagination, till his death in 1843.

And all the time life was to him a poet's dream. He lived in a continual
glamour of spiritual romance, bathing everything, from the old deities
of the Valhalla down to the champions of German liberation, in an ideal
glow of purity and nobleness, earnestly Christian throughout, even in
his dealings with Northern mythology, for he saw Christ unconsciously
shown in Baldur, and Satan in Loki.

Thus he lived, felt, and believed what he wrote, and though his dramas
and poems do not rise above fair mediocrity, and the great number of his
prose stories are injured by a certain monotony, the charm of them is
in their elevation of sentiment and the earnest faith pervading all. His
knights might be Sir Galahad--


            "My strength is as the strength of ten,
             Because my heart is pure."


Evil comes to them as something to be conquered, generally as a form of
magic enchantment, and his "wondrous fair maidens" are worthy of them.
Yet there is adventure enough to afford much pleasure, and often we have
a touch of true genius, which has given actual ideas to the world, and
precious ones.

This genius is especially traceable in his two masterpieces, Sintram and
Undine. Sintram was inspired by Albert Durer's engraving of the "Knight
of Death," of which we give a presentation. It was sent to Fouque by his
friend Edward Hitzig, with a request that he would compose a ballad
on it. The date of the engraving is 1513, and we quote the description
given by the late Rev. R. St. John Tyrwhitt, showing how differently it
may be read.

"Some say it is the end of the strong wicked man, just overtaken by
Death and Sin, whom he has served on earth. It is said that the tuft on
the lance indicates his murderous character, being of such unusual size.
You know the use of that appendage was to prevent blood running down
from the spearhead to the hands. They also think that the object under
the horse's off hind foot is a snare, into which the old oppressor is
to fall instantly. The expression of the faces may be taken either way:
both good men and bad may have hard, regular features; and both good men
and bad would set their teeth grimly on seeing Death, with the sands of
their life nearly run out. Some say they think the expression of Death
gentle, or only admonitory (as the author of "Sintram"); and I have to
thank the authoress of the "Heir of Redclyffe" for showing me a fine
impression of the plate, where Death certainly had a not ungentle
countenance--snakes and all. I think the shouldered lance, and quiet,
firm seat on horseback, with gentle bearing on the curb-bit, indicate
grave resolution in the rider, and that a robber knight would have his
lance in rest; then there is the leafy crown on the horse's head; and
the horse and dog move on so quietly, that I am inclined to hope the
best for the Ritter."

Musing on the mysterious engraving, Fouque saw in it the life-long
companions of man, Death and Sin, whom he must defy in order to reach
salvation; and out of that contemplation rose his wonderful romance,
not exactly an allegory, where every circumstance can be fitted with an
appropriate meaning, but with the sense of the struggle of life, with
external temptation and hereditary inclination pervading all, while
Grace and Prayer aid the effort. Folko and Gabrielle are revived from
the Magic Ring, that Folko may by example and influence enhance all
higher resolutions; while Gabrielle, in all unconscious innocence,
awakes the passions, and thus makes the conquest the harder.

It is within the bounds of possibility that the similarities of
folk-lore may have brought to Fouque's knowledge the outline of the
story which Scott tells us was the germ of "Guy Mannering"; where a boy,
whose horoscope had been drawn by an astrologer, as likely to encounter
peculiar trials at certain intervals, actually had, in his twenty-first
year, a sort of visible encounter with the Tempter, and came off
conqueror by his strong faith in the Bible. Sir Walter, between
reverence and realism, only took the earlier part of the story, but
Fouque gives us the positive struggle, and carries us along with the
final victory and subsequent peace. His tale has had a remarkable power
over the readers. We cannot but mention two remarkable instances at
either end of the scale. Cardinal Newman, in his younger days, was
so much overcome by it that he hurried out into the garden to read it
alone, and returned with traces of emotion in his face. And when Charles
Lowder read it to his East End boys, their whole minds seemed engrossed
by it, and they even called certain spots after the places mentioned.
Imagine the Rocks of the Moon in Ratcliff Highway!

May we mention that Miss Christabel Coleridge's "Waynflete" brings
something of the spirit and idea of "Sintram" into modern life?

"Undine" is a story of much lighter fancy, and full of a peculiar grace,
though with a depth of melancholy that endears it. No doubt it
was founded on the universal idea in folk-lore of the nixies or
water-spirits, one of whom, in Norwegian legend, was seen weeping
bitterly because of the want of a soul. Sometimes the nymph is a wicked
siren like the Lorelei; but in many of these tales she weds an earthly
lover, and deserts him after a time, sometimes on finding her diving
cap, or her seal-skin garment, which restores her to her ocean kindred,
sometimes on his intruding on her while she is under a periodical
transformation, as with the fairy Melusine, more rarely if he becomes
unfaithful.

There is a remarkable Cornish tale of a nymph or mermaiden, who thus
vanished, leaving a daughter who loved to linger on the beach rather
than sport with other children. By and by she had a lover, but no sooner
did he show tokens of inconstancy, than the mother came up from the sea
and put him to death, when the daughter pined away and died. Her name
was Selina, which gives the tale a modern aspect, and makes us wonder
if the old tradition can have been modified by some report of Undine's
story.

There was an idea set forth by the Rosicrucians of spirits abiding in
the elements, and as Undine represented the water influences, Fouque's
wife, the Baroness Caroline, wrote a fairly pretty story on the sylphs
of fire. But Undine's freakish playfulness and mischief as an elemental
being, and her sweet patience when her soul is won, are quite
original, and indeed we cannot help sharing, or at least understanding,
Huldbrand's beginning to shrink from the unearthly creature to something
of his own flesh and blood. He is altogether unworthy, and though in
this tale there is far less of spiritual meaning than in Sintram, we
cannot but see that Fouque's thought was that the grosser human nature
is unable to appreciate what is absolutely pure and unearthly.

                                             C. M. YONGE.



CHAPTER 1



In the high castle of Drontheim many knights sat assembled to hold
council for the weal of the realm; and joyously they caroused together
till midnight around the huge stone table in the vaulted hall. A rising
storm drove the snow wildly against the rattling windows; all the oak
doors groaned, the massive locks shook, the castle-clock slowly
and heavily struck the hour of one. Then a boy, pale as death, with
disordered hair and closed eyes, rushed into the hall, uttering a wild
scream of terror. He stopped beside the richly carved seat of the mighty
Biorn, clung to the glittering knight with both his hands, and shrieked
in a piercing voice, "Knight and father! father and knight! Death and
another are closely pursuing me!"

An awful stillness lay like ice on the whole assembly, save that the boy
screamed ever the fearful words. But one of Biorn's numerous retainers,
an old esquire, known by the name of Rolf the Good, advanced towards the
terrified child, took him in his arms, and half chanted this prayer: "O
Father, help Thy servant! I believe, and yet I cannot believe." The boy,
as if in a dream, at once loosened his hold of the knight; and the good
Rolf bore him from the hall unresisting, yet still shedding hot tears
and murmuring confused sounds.

The lords and knights looked at one another much amazed, until the
mighty Biorn said, wildly and fiercely laughing, "Marvel not at that
strange boy. He is my only son; and has been thus since he was five
years old: he is now twelve. I am therefore accustomed to see him so;
though, at the first, I too was disquieted by it. The attack comes upon
him only once in the year, and always at this same time. But forgive me
for having spent so many words on my poor Sintram, and let us pass on to
some worthier subject for our discourse."

Again there was silence for a while; then whisperingly and doubtfully
single voices strove to renew their broken-off discourse, but without
success. Two of the youngest and most joyous began a roundelay; but
the storm howled and raged so wildly without, that this too was soon
interrupted. And now they all sat silent and motionless in the lofty
hall; the lamp flickered sadly under the vaulted roof; the whole party
of knights looked like pale, lifeless images dressed up in gigantic
armour.

Then arose the chaplain of the castle of Drontheim, the only priest
among the knightly throng, and said, "Dear Lord Biorn, our eyes and
thoughts have all been directed to you and your son in a wonderful
manner; but so it has been ordered by the providence of God. You
perceive that we cannot withdraw them; and you would do well to tell
us exactly what you know concerning the fearful state of the boy.
Perchance, the solemn tale, which I expect from you, might do good to
this disturbed assembly."

Biorn cast a look of displeasure on the priest, and answered, "Sir
chaplain, you have more share in the history than either you or I could
desire. Excuse me, if I am unwilling to trouble these light-hearted
warriors with so rueful a tale."

But the chaplain approached nearer to the knight, and said, in a firm
yet very mild tone, "Dear lord, hitherto it rested with you alone to
relate, or not to relate it; but now that you have so strangely hinted
at the share which I have had in your son's calamity, I must positively
demand that you will repeat word for word how everything came to pass.
My honour will have it so, and that will weigh with you as much as with
me."

In stern compliance Biorn bowed his haughty head, and began the
following narration. "This time seven years I was keeping the Christmas
feast with my assembled followers. We have many venerable old customs
which have descended to us by inheritance from our great forefathers;
as, for instance, that of placing a gilded boar's head on the table, and
making thereon knightly vows of daring and wondrous deeds. Our chaplain
here, who used then frequently to visit me, was never a friend to
keeping up such traditions of the ancient heathen world. Such men as he
were not much in favour in those olden times."

"My excellent predecessors," interrupted the chaplain, "belonged more
to God than to the world, and with Him they were in favour. Thus they
converted your ancestors; and if I can in like manner be of service to
you, even your jeering will not vex me."

With looks yet darker, and a somewhat angry shudder, the knight resumed:
"Yes, yes; I know all your promises and threats of an invisible Power,
and how they are meant persuade us to part more readily with whatever of
this world's goods we may possess. Once, ah, truly, once I too had such!
Strange!--Sometimes it seems to me as though ages had passed over since
then, and as if I were alone the survivor, so fearfully has everything
changed. But now I bethink me, that the greater part of this noble
company knew me in my happiness, and have seen my wife, my lovely
Verena."

He pressed his hands on his eyes, and it seemed as though he wept. The
storm had ceased; the soft light of the moon shone through the windows,
and her beams played on his wild features. Suddenly he started up, so
that his heavy armour rattled with a fearful sound, and he cried out
in a thundering voice, "Shall I turn monk, as she has become a nun? No,
crafty priest; your webs are too thin to catch flies of my sort."

"I have nothing to do with webs," said the chaplain. "In all openness
and sincerity have I put heaven and hell before you during the space of
six years; and you gave full consent to the step which the holy Verena
took. But what all that has to do with your son's sufferings I know not,
and I wait for your narration."

"You may wait long enough," said Biorn, with a sneer. "Sooner shall--"

"Swear not!" said the chaplain in a loud commanding tone, and his eyes
flashed almost fearfully.

"Hurra!" cried Biorn, in wild affright; "hurra! Death and his companion
are loose!" and he dashed madly out of the chamber and down the steps.
The rough and fearful notes of his horn were heard summoning his
retainers; and presently afterwards the clatter of horses' feet on the
frozen court-yard gave token of their departure. The knights retired,
silent and shuddering; while the chaplain remained alone at the huge
stone table, praying.



CHAPTER 2



After some time the good Rolf returned with slow and soft steps, and
started with surprise at finding the hall deserted. The chamber where he
had been occupied in quieting and soothing the unhappy child was in so
distant a part of the castle that he had heard nothing of the knight's
hasty departure. The chaplain related to him all that had passed, and
then said, "But, my good Rolf, I much wish to ask you concerning those
strange words with which you seemed to lull poor Sintram to rest.
They sounded like sacred words, and no doubt they are; but I could not
understand them. 'I believe, and yet I cannot believe.'"

"Reverend sir," answered Rolf, "I remember that from my earliest years
no history in the Gospels has taken such hold of me as that of the child
possessed with a devil, which the disciples were not able to cast out;
but when our Saviour came down from the mountain where He had been
transfigured, He broke the bonds wherewith the evil spirit had held the
miserable child bound. I always felt as if I must have known and loved
that boy, and been his play-fellow in his happy days; and when I grew
older, then the distress of the father on account of his lunatic son lay
heavy at my heart. It must surely have all been a foreboding of our poor
young Lord Sintram, whom I love as if he were my own child; and now
the words of the weeping father in the Gospel often come into my
mind,--'Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief;' and something similar
I may very likely have repeated to-day as a chant or a prayer. Reverend
father, when I consider how one dreadful imprecation of the father has
kept its withering hold on the son, all seems dark before me; but, God
be praised! my faith and my hope remain above."

"Good Rolf," said the priest, "I cannot clearly understand what you
say about the unhappy Sintram; for I do not know when and how this
affliction came upon him. If no oath or solemn promise bind you to
secrecy, will you make known to me all that is connected with it?"

"Most willingly," replied Rolf. "I have long desired to have an
opportunity of so doing; but you have been almost always separated
from us. I dare not now leave the sleeping boy any longer alone; and
to-morrow, at the earliest dawn, I must take him to his father. Will you
come with me, dear sir, to our poor Sintram?"

The chaplain at once took up the small lamp which Rolf had brought with
him, and they set off together through the long vaulted passages. In the
small distant chamber they found the poor boy fast asleep. The light of
the lamp fell strangely on his very pale face. The chaplain stood gazing
at him for some time, and at length said: "Certainly from his birth his
features were always sharp and strongly marked, but now they are almost
fearfully so for such a child; and yet no one can help having a kindly
feeling towards him, whether he will or not."

"Most true, dear sir," answered Rolf. And it was evident how his whole
heart rejoiced at any word which betokened affection for his beloved
young lord. Thereupon he placed the lamp where its light could not
disturb the boy, and seating himself close by the priest, he began to
speak in the following terms:--"During that Christmas feast of which my
lord was talking to you, he and his followers discoursed much concerning
the German merchants, and the best means of keeping down the increasing
pride and power of the trading-towns. At length Biorn laid his impious
hand on the golden boar's head, and swore to put to death without mercy
every German trader whom fate, in what way soever, might bring
alive into his power. The gentle Verena turned pale, and would have
interposed--but it was too late, the bloody word was uttered. And
immediately afterwards, as though the great enemy of souls were
determined at once to secure with fresh bonds the vassal thus devoted
to him, a warder came into the hall to announce that two citizens of a
trading-town in Germany, an old man and his son, had been shipwrecked
on this coast, and were now within the gates, asking hospitality of the
lord of the castle. The knight could not refrain from shuddering; but
he thought himself bound by his rash vow and by that accursed heathenish
golden boar. We, his retainers, were commanded to assemble in the
castle-yard, armed with sharp spears, which were to be hurled at the
defenceless strangers at the first signal made to us. For the first,
and I trust the last time in my life, I said 'No' to the commands of
my lord; and that I said in a loud voice, and with the heartiest
determination. The Almighty, who alone knows whom He will accept and
whom He will reject, armed me with resolution and strength. And Biorn
might perceive whence the refusal of his faithful old servant arose, and
that it was worthy of respect. He said to me, half in anger and half in
scorn: 'Go up to my wife's apartments; her attendants are running to
and fro, perhaps she is ill. Go up, Rolf the Good, I say to thee, and so
women shall be with women.' I thought to myself, 'Jeer on, then;' and I
went silently the way that he had pointed out to me. On the stairs
there met me two strange and right fearful beings, whom I had never seen
before; and I know not how they got into the castle. One of them was a
great tall man, frightfully pallid and thin; the other was a dwarf-like
man, with a most hideous countenance and features. Indeed, when I
collected my thoughts and looked carefully at him, it appeared to me--"

Low moanings and convulsive movements of the boy here interrupted the
narrative. Rolf and his chaplain hastened to his bedside, and perceived
that his countenance wore an expression of fearful agony, and that he
was struggling in vain to open his eyes. The priest made the Sign of
the Cross over him, and immediately peace seemed to be restored, and his
sleep again became quiet: they both returned softly to their seats.

"You see," said Rolf, "that it will not do to describe more closely
those two awful beings. Suffice it to say, that they went down into the
court-yard, and that I proceeded to my lady's apartments. I found the
gentle Verena almost fainting with terror and overwhelming anxiety, and
I hastened to restore her with some of those remedies which I was able
to apply by my skill, through God's gift and the healing virtues of
herbs and minerals. But scarcely had she recovered her senses, when,
with that calm holy power which, as you know, is hers, she desired me
to conduct her down to the court-yard, saying that she must either put
a stop to the fearful doings of this night, or herself fall a sacrifice.
Our way took us by the little bed of the sleeping Sintram. Alas! hot
tears fell from my eyes to see how evenly his gentle breath then came
and went, and how sweetly he smiled in his peaceful slumbers."

The old man put his hands to his eyes, and wept bitterly; but soon
he resumed his sad story. "As we approached the lowest window of the
staircase, we could hear distinctly the voice of the elder merchant; and
on looking out, the light of the torches showed me his noble features,
as well as the bright youthful countenance of his son. 'I take Almighty
God to witness,' cried he, 'that I had no evil thought against this
house! But surely I must have fallen unawares amongst heathens; it
cannot be that I am in a Christian knight's castle; and if you are
indeed heathens, then kill us at once. And thou, my beloved son, be
patient and of good courage; in heaven we shall learn wherefore it could
not be otherwise.' I thought I could see those two fearful ones amidst
the throng of retainers. The pale one had a huge curved sword in his
hand, the little one held a spear notched in a strange fashion. Verena
tore open the window, and cried in silvery tones through the wild night,
'My dearest lord and husband, for the sake of your only child, have pity
on those harmless men! Save them from death, and resist the temptation
of the evil spirit.' The knight answered in his fierce wrath--but I
cannot repeat his words. He staked his child on the desperate cast; he
called Death and the Devil to see that he kept his word:--but hush! the
boy is again moaning. Let me bring the dark tale quickly to a close.
Biorn commanded his followers to strike, casting on them those fierce
looks which have gained him the title of Biorn of the Fiery Eyes; while
at the same time the two frightful strangers bestirred themselves very
busily. Then Verena called out, with piercing anguish, 'Help, O God, my
Saviour!' Those two dreadful figures disappeared; and the knight and his
retainers, as if seized with blindness, rushed wildly one against the
other, but without doing injury to themselves, or yet being able to
strike the merchants, who ran so close a risk. They bowed reverently
towards Verena, and with calm thanksgivings departed through the
castle-gates, which at that moment had been burst open by a violent gust
of wind, and now gave a free passage to any who would go forth. The lady
and I were yet standing bewildered on the stairs, when I fancied I
saw the two fearful forms glide close by me, but mist-like and unreal.
Verena called to me: 'Rolf, did you see a tall pale man, and a little
hideous one with him, pass just now up the staircase?' I flew after
them; and found, alas, the poor boy in the same state in which you saw
him a few hours ago. Ever since, the attack has come on him regularly at
this time, and he is in all respects fearfully changed. The lady of
the castle did not fail to discern the avenging hand of Heaven in this
calamity; and as the knight, her husband, instead of repenting, ever
became more truly Biorn of the Fiery Eyes, she resolved, in the walls of
a cloister, by unremitting prayer, to obtain mercy in time and eternity
for herself and her unhappy child."

Rolf was silent; and the chaplain, after some thought, said: "I now
understand why, six years ago, Biorn confessed his guilt to me in
general words, and consented that his wife should take the veil. Some
faint compunction must then have stirred within him, and perhaps may
stir him yet. At any rate it was impossible that so tender a flower as
Verena could remain longer in so rough keeping. But who is there now to
watch over and protect our poor Sintram?"

"The prayer of his mother," answered Rolf. "Reverend sir, when the
first dawn of day appears, as it does now, and when the morning breeze
whispers through the glancing window, they ever bring to my mind the
soft beaming eyes of my lady, and I again seem to hear the sweet tones
of her voice. The holy Verena is, next to God, our chief aid."

"And let us add our devout supplications to the Lord," said the
chaplain; and he and Rolf knelt in silent and earnest prayer by the bed
of the pale sufferer, who began to smile in his dreams.



CHAPTER 3



The rays of the sun shining brightly into the room awoke Sintram, and
raising himself up, he looked angrily at the chaplain, and said, "So
there is a priest in the castle! And yet that accursed dream continues
to torment me even in his very presence. Pretty priest he must be!"

"My child," answered the chaplain in the mildest tone, "I have prayed
for thee most fervently, and I shall never cease doing so--but God alone
is Almighty."

"You speak very boldly to the son of the knight Biorn," cried Sintram.
"'My child!' If those horrible dreams had not been again haunting me,
you would make me laugh heartily."

"Young Lord Sintram," said the chaplain, "I am by no means surprised
that you do not know me again; for in truth, neither do I know you
again." And his eyes filled with tears as he spoke.

The good Rolf looked sorrowfully in the boy's face, saying, "Ah, my dear
young master, you are so much better than you would make people believe.
Why do you that? Your memory is so good, that you must surely recollect
your kind old friend the chaplain, who used formerly to be constantly at
the castle, and to bring you so many gifts--bright pictures of saints,
and beautiful songs?"

"I know all that very well," replied Sintram thoughtfully. "My sainted
mother was alive in those days."

"Our gracious lady is still living, God be praised," said the good Rolf.

"But she does not live for us, poor sick creatures that we are!" cried
Sintram. "And why will you not call her sainted? Surely she knows
nothing about my dreams?"

"Yes, she does know of them," said the chaplain; "and she prays to God
for you. But take heed, and restrain that wild, haughty temper of yours.
It might, indeed, come to pass that she would know nothing about your
dreams, and that would be if your soul were separated from your body;
and then the holy angels also would cease to know anything of you."

Sintram fell back on his bed as if thunderstruck; and Rolf said, with
a gentle sigh, "You should not speak so severely to my poor sick child,
reverend sir."

The boy sat up, and with tearful eyes he turned caressingly towards the
chaplain: "Let him do as he pleases, you good, tender-hearted Rolf;
he knows very well what he is about. Would you reprove him if I were
slipping down a snow-cleft, and he caught me up roughly by the hair of
my head?"

The priest looked tenderly at him, and would have spoken his holy
thoughts, when Sintram suddenly sprang off the bed and asked after his
father. As soon as he heard of the knight's departure, he would not
remain another hour in the castle; and put aside the fears of the
chaplain and the old esquire, lest a rapid journey should injure his
hardly restored health, by saying to them, "Believe me, reverend sir,
and dear old Rolf, if I were not subject to these hideous dreams, there
would not be a bolder youth in the whole world; and even as it is, I am
not so far behind the very best. Besides, till another year has passed,
my dreams are at an end."

On his somewhat imperious sign Rolf brought out the horses. The boy
threw himself boldly into the saddle, and taking a courteous leave of
the chaplain, he dashed along the frozen valley that lay between the
snow-clad mountains. He had not ridden far, in company with his old
attendant, when he heard a strange indistinct sound proceeding from
a neighbouring cleft in the rock; it was partly like the clapper of a
small mill, but mingled with that were hollow groans and other tones of
distress. Thither they turned their horses, and a wonderful sight showed
itself to them.

A tall man, deadly pale, in a pilgrim's garb, was striving with violent
though unsuccessful efforts, to work his way out of the snow and to
climb up the mountain; and thereby a quantity of bones, which were
hanging loosely all about his garments, rattled one against the other,
and caused the mysterious sound already mentioned. Rolf, much terrified,
crossed himself, while the bold Sintram called out to the stranger,
"What art thou doing there? Give an account of thy solitary labours."

"I live in death," replied that other one with a fearful grin.

"Whose are those bones on thy clothes?"

"They are relics, young sir."

"Art thou a pilgrim?"

"Restless, quietless, I wander up and down."

"Thou must not perish here in the snow before my eyes."

"That I will not."

"Thou must come up and sit on my horse."

"That I will." And all at once he started up out of the snow with
surprising strength and agility, and sat on the horse behind Sintram,
clasping him tight in his long arms. The horse, startled by the rattling
of the bones, and as if seized with madness, rushed away through the
most trackless passes. The boy soon found himself alone with his strange
companion; for Rolf, breathless with fear, spurred on his horse in vain,
and remained far behind them. From a snowy precipice the horse slid,
without falling, into a narrow gorge, somewhat indeed exhausted, yet
continuing to snort and foam as before, and still unmastered by the boy.
Yet his headlong course being now changed into a rough irregular trot,
Sintram was able to breathe more freely, and to begin the following
discourse with his unknown companion.

"Draw thy garment closer around thee, thou pale man, so the bones will
not rattle, and I shall be able to curb my horse."

"It would be of no avail, boy; it would be of no avail. The bones must
rattle."

"Do not clasp me so tight with thy long arms, they are so cold."

"It cannot be helped, boy; it cannot be helped. Be content. For my long
cold arms are not pressing yet on thy heart."

"Do not breathe on me so with thy icy breath. All my strength is
departing."

"I must breathe, boy; I must breathe. But do not complain. I am not
blowing thee away."

The strange dialogue here came to an end; for to Sintram's surprise he
found himself on an open plain, over which the sun was shining brightly,
and at no great distance before him he saw his father's castle. While
he was thinking whether he might invite the unearthly pilgrim to rest
there, this one put an end to his doubts by throwing himself suddenly
off the horse, whose wild course was checked by the shock. Raising his
forefinger, he said to the boy, "I know old Biorn of the Fiery Eyes
well; perhaps but too well. Commend me to him. It will not need to tell
him my name; he will recognize me at the description." So saying, the
ghastly stranger turned aside into a thick fir-wood, and disappeared
rattling amongst the tangled branches.

Slowly and thoughtfully Sintram rode on towards his father's castle,
his horse now again quiet and altogether exhausted. He scarcely knew
how much he ought to relate of his wonderful journey, and he also
felt oppressed with anxiety for the good Rolf, who had remained so far
behind. He found himself at the castle-gate sooner than he had expected;
the drawbridge was lowered, the doors were thrown open; an attendant led
the youth into the great hall, where Biorn was sitting all alone at
a huge table, with many flagons and glasses before him, and suits of
armour ranged on either side of him. It was his daily custom, by way of
company, to have the armour of his ancestors, with closed visors, placed
all round the table at which he sat. The father and son began conversing
as follows:

"Where is Rolf?"

"I do not know, father; he left me in the mountains."

"I will have Rolf shot if he cannot take better care than that of my
only child."

"Then, father, you will have your only child shot at the same time, for
without Rolf I cannot live; and if even one single dart is aimed at
him, I will be there to receive it, and to shield his true and faithful
heart."

"So!--Then Rolf shall not be shot, but he shall be driven from the
castle."

"In that case, father, you will see me go away also; and I will give
myself up to serve him in forests, in mountains, in caves."

"So'--Well, then, Rolf must remain here."

"That is just what I think, father."

"Were you riding quite alone?"

"No, father; but with a strange pilgrim. He said that he knew you very
well--perhaps too well." And thereupon Sintram began to relate and to
describe all that had passed with the pale man.

"I know him also very well," said Biorn. "He is half crazed and half
wise, as we sometimes are astonished at seeing that people can be. But
do thou, my boy, go to rest after thy wild journey. I give you my word
that Rolf shall be kindly received if he arrive here; and that if he do
not come soon, he shall be sought for in the mountains."

"I trust to your word, father," said Sintram, half humble, half proud;
and he did after the command of the grim lord of the castle.



CHAPTER 4



Towards evening Sintram awoke. He saw the good Rolf sitting at his
bedside, and looked up in the old man's kind face with a smile of
unusually innocent brightness. But soon again his dark brows were knit,
and he asked, "How did my father receive you, Rolf? Did he say a harsh
word to you?"

"No, my dear young lord, he did not; indeed he did not speak to me
at all. At first he looked very wrathful; but he checked himself,
and ordered a servant to bring me food and wine to refresh me, and
afterwards to take me to your room."

"He might have kept his word better. But he is my father, and I must
not judge him too hardly. I will now go down to the evening meal." So
saying, he sprang up and threw on his furred mantle.

But Rolf stopped him, and said, entreatingly: "My dear young master,
you would do better to take your meal to-day alone here in your own
apartment; for there is a guest with your father, in whose company
I should be very sorry to see you. If you will remain here, I will
entertain you with pleasant tales and songs."

"There is nothing in the world which I should like better, dear Rolf,"
answered Sintram; "but it does not befit me to shun any man. Tell me,
whom should I find with my father?"

"Alas!" said the old man, "you have already found him in the mountain.
Formerly, when I used to ride about the country with Biorn, we often met
with him, but I was forbidden to tell you anything about him; and this
is the first time that he has ever come to the castle."

"The crazy pilgrim!" replied Sintram; and he stood awhile in deep
thought, as if considering the matter. At last, rousing himself, he
said, "Dear old friend, I would most willingly stay here this evening
all alone with you and your stories and songs, and all the pilgrims in
the world should not entice me from this quiet room. But one thing must
be considered. I feel a kind of dread of that pale, tall man; and by
such fears no knight's son can ever suffer himself to be overcome. So be
not angry, dear Rolf, if I determine to go and look that strange palmer
in the face." And he shut the door of the chamber behind him, and with
firm and echoing steps proceeded to the hall.

The pilgrim and the knight were sitting opposite to each other at the
great table, on which many lights were burning; and it was fearful,
amongst all the lifeless armour, to see those two tall grim men move,
and eat, and drink.

As the pilgrim looked up on the boy's entrance, Biorn said: "You know
him already: he is my only child, and fellow-traveller this morning."

The palmer fixed an earnest look on Sintram, and answered, shaking his
head, "I know not what you mean."

Then the boy burst forth, impatiently, "It must be confessed that you
deal very unfairly by us! You say that you know my father but too much,
and now it seems that you know me altogether too little. Look me in the
face: who allowed you to ride on his horse, and in return had his good
steed driven almost wild? Speak, if you can!"

Biorn smiled, shaking his head, but well pleased, as was his wont, with
his son's wild behaviour; while the pilgrim shuddered as if terrified
and overcome by some fearful irresistible power. At length, with a
trembling voice, he said these words: "Yes, yes, my dear young lord, you
are surely quite right; you are perfectly right in everything which you
may please to assert."

Then the lord of the castle laughed aloud, and said: "Why, thou strange
pilgrim, what is become of all thy wonderfully fine speeches and
warnings now? Has the boy all at once struck thee dumb and powerless?
Beware, thou prophet-messenger, beware!"

But the palmer cast a fearful look on Biorn, which seemed to quench
the light of his fiery eyes, and said solemnly, in a thundering voice,
"Between me and thee, old man, the case stands quite otherwise. We have
nothing to reproach each other with. And now suffer me to sing a song to
you on the lute." He stretched out his hand, and took down from the wall
a forgotten and half-strung lute, which was hanging there; and, with
surprising skill and rapidity, having put it in a state fit for use, he
struck some chords, and raised this song to the low melancholy tones of
the instrument:


                  "The flow'ret was mine own, mine own,
                   But I have lost its fragrance rare,
                   And knightly name and freedom fair,
                     Through sin, through sin alone.

                   The flow'ret was thine own, thine own,
                   Why cast away what thou didst win?
                   Thou knight no more, but slave of sin,
                     Thou'rt fearfully alone!"


"Have a care!" shouted he at the close in a pealing voice, as he pulled
the strings so mightily that they all broke with a clanging wail, and
a cloud of dust rose from the old lute, which spread round him like a
mist.

Sintram had been watching him narrowly whilst he was singing, and more
and more did he feel convinced that it was impossible that this man and
his fellow-traveller of the morning could be one and the same. Nay, the
doubt rose to certainty, when the stranger again looked round at
him with the same timid, anxious air, and with many excuses and low
reverences hung the lute in its old place, and then ran out of the hall
as if bewildered with terror, in strange contrast with the proud and
stately bearing which he had shown to Biorn.

The eyes of the boy were now directed to his father, and he saw that he
had sunk back senseless in his seat, as if struck by a blow. Sintram's
cries called Rolf and other attendants into the hall; and only by great
labour did their united efforts awake the lord of the castle. His looks
were still wild and disordered; but he allowed himself to be taken to
rest, quiet and yielding.



CHAPTER 5



An illness followed this sudden attack; and during the course of it the
stout old knight, in the midst of his delirious ravings, did not cease
to affirm confidently that he must and should recover. He laughed
proudly when his fever-fits came on, and rebuked them for daring to
attack him so needlessly. Then he murmured to himself, "That was not
the right one yet; there must still be another one out in the cold
mountains."

Always at such words Sintram involuntarily shuddered; they seemed to
strengthen his notion that he who had ridden with him, and he who had
sat at table in the castle, were two quite distinct persons; and he
knew not why, but this thought was inexpressibly awful to him. Biorn
recovered, and appeared to have entirely forgotten his adventure with
the palmer. He hunted in the mountains; he carried on his usual wild
warfare with his neighbours; and Sintram, as he grew up, became his
almost constant companion; whereby each year a fearful strength of body
and spirit was unfolded in the youth. Every one trembled at the sight
of his sharp pallid features, his dark rolling eyes, his tall, muscular,
and somewhat lean form; and yet no one hated him--not even those whom he
distressed or injured in his wildest humours. This might arise in part
out of regard to old Rolf, who seldom left him for long, and who always
held a softening influence over him; but also many of those who had
known the Lady Verena while she still lived in the world affirmed that a
faint reflection of her heavenly expression floated over the very unlike
features of her son, and that by this their hearts were won.

Once, just at the beginning of spring, Biorn and his son were hunting
in the neighbourhood of the sea-coast, over a tract of country which did
not belong to them; drawn thither less by the love of sport than by the
wish of bidding defiance to a chieftain whom they detested, and thus
exciting a feud. At that season of the year, when his winter dreams had
just passed off, Sintram was always unusually fierce and disposed for
warlike adventures. And this day he was enraged at the chieftain for not
coming in arms from his castle to hinder their hunting; and he cursed,
in the wildest words, his tame patience and love of peace. Just then one
of his wild young companions rushed towards him, shouting joyfully: "Be
content my dear young lord! I will wager that all is coming about as
we and you wish; for as I was pursuing a wounded deer down to the
sea-shore, I saw a sail and a vessel filled with armed men making for
the shore. Doubtless your enemy purposes to fall upon you from the
coast."

Joyfully and secretly Sintram called all his followers together, being
resolved this time to take the combat on himself alone, and then to
rejoin his father, and astonish him with the sight of captured foes and
other tokens of victory.

The hunters, thoroughly acquainted with every cliff and rock on the
coast, hid themselves round the landing-place; and soon the strange
vessel hove nearer with swelling sails, till at length it came to
anchor, and its crew began to disembark in unsuspicious security. At
the head of them appeared a knight of high degree, in blue steel armour
richly inlaid with gold. His head was bare, for he carried his costly
golden helmet hanging on his left arm. He looked royally around him; and
his countenance, which dark brown locks shaded, was pleasant to behold;
and a well-trimmed moustache fringed his mouth, from which, as he
smiled, gleamed forth two rows of pearl-white teeth.

A feeling came across Sintram that he must already have seen this knight
somewhere; and he stood motionless for a few moments. But suddenly he
raised his hand, to make the agreed signal of attack. In vain did the
good Rolf, who had just succeeded in getting up to him, whisper in his
ear that these could not be the foes whom he had taken them for, but
that they were unknown, and certainly high and noble strangers.

"Let them be who they may," replied the wild youth, "they have enticed
me here to wait, and they shall pay the penalty of thus fooling me. Say
not another word, if you value your life." And immediately he gave the
signal, a thick shower of javelins followed from all sides, and the
Norwegian warriors rushed forth with flashing swords. They found their
foes as brave, or somewhat braver, than they could have desired. More
fell on the side of those who made than of those who received the
assault; and the strangers appeared to understand surprisingly the
Norwegian manner of fighting. The knight in steel armour had not in his
haste put on his helmet; but it seemed as if he in no wise needed such
protection, for his good sword afforded him sufficient defence even
against the spears and darts which were incessantly hurled at him, as
with rapid skill he received them on the shining blade, and dashed them
far away, shivered into fragments.

Sintram could not at the first onset penetrate to where this shining
hero was standing, as all his followers, eager after such a noble prey,
thronged closely round him; but now the way was cleared enough for
him to spring towards the brave stranger, shouting a war-cry, and
brandishing his sword above his head.

"Gabrielle!" cried the knight, as he dexterously parried the heavy blow
which was descending, and with one powerful sword-thrust he laid the
youth prostrate on the ground; then placing his knee on Sintram's
breast, he drew forth a flashing dagger, and held it before his eyes as
he lay astonished. All at once the men-at-arms stood round like walls.
Sintram felt that no hope remained for him. He determined to die as it
became a bold warrior; and without giving one sign of emotion, he looked
on the fatal weapon with a steady gaze.

As he lay with his eyes cast upwards, he fancied that there appeared
suddenly from heaven a wondrously beautiful female form in a bright
attire of blue and gold. "Our ancestors told truly of the Valkyrias,"
murmured he. "Strike, then, thou unknown conqueror."

But with this the knight did not comply, neither was it a Valkyria who
had so suddenly appeared, but the beautiful wife of the stranger,
who, having advanced to the high edge of the vessel, had thus met the
upraised look of Sintram.

"Folko," cried she, in the softest tone, "thou knight without reproach!
I know that thou sparest the vanquished."

The knight sprang up, and with courtly grace stretched out his hand to
the conquered youth, saying, "Thank the noble lady of Montfaucon for
your life and liberty. But if you are so totally devoid of all goodness
as to wish to resume the combat, here am I; let it be yours to begin."

Sintram sank, deeply ashamed, on his knees, and wept; for he had often
heard speak of the high renown of the French knight Folko of Montfaucon,
who was related to his father's house, and of the grace and beauty of
his gentle lady Gabrielle.



CHAPTER 6



The Lord of Montfaucon looked with astonishment at his strange foe; and
as he gazed on him more and more, recollections arose in his mind of
that northern race from whom he was descended, and with whom he had
always maintained friendly relations. A golden bear's claw, with which
Sintram's cloak was fastened, at length made all clear to him.

"Have you not," said he, "a valiant and far-famed kinsman, called the
Sea-king Arinbiorn, who carries on his helmet golden vulture-wings? And
is not your father the knight Biorn? For surely the bear's claw on your
mantle must be the cognisance of your house."

Sintram assented to all this, in deep and humble shame.

The Knight of Montfaucon raised him from the ground, and said gravely,
yet gently, "We are, then, of kin the one to the other; but I could
never have believed that any one of our noble house would attack
a peaceful man without provocation, and that, too, without giving
warning."

"Slay me at once," answered Sintram, "if indeed I am worthy to die by so
noble hands. I can no longer endure the light of day."

"Because you have been overcome?" asked Montfaucon. Sintram shook his
head.

"Or is it, rather, because you have committed an unknightly action?"

The glow of shame that overspread the youth's countenance said yes to
this.

"But you should not on that account wish to die," continued Montfaucon.
"You should rather wish to live, that you may prove your repentance, and
make your name illustrious by many noble deeds; for you are endowed with
a bold spirit and with strength of limb, and also with the eagle-glance
of a chieftain. I should have made you a knight this very hour, if you
had borne yourself as bravely in a good cause as you have just now in
a bad. See to it, that I may do it soon. You may yet become a vessel of
high honour."

A joyous sound of shawms and silver rebecks interrupted his discourse.
The lady Gabrielle, bright as the morning, had now come down from the
ship, surrounded by her maidens; and, instructed in a few words by Folko
who was his late foe, she took the combat as some mere trial of arms,
saying, "You must not be cast down, noble youth, because my wedded lord
has won the prize; for be it known to you, that in the whole world there
is but one knight who can boast of not having been overcome by the Baron
of Montfaucon. And who can say," continued she, sportively, "whether
even that would have happened, had he not set himself to win back the
magic ring from me, his lady-love, destined to him, as well by the
choice of my own heart as by the will of Heaven!"

Folko, smiling, bent his head over the snow-white hand of his lady; and
then bade the youth conduct them to his father's castle.

Rolf took upon himself to see to the disembarking of the horses and
valuables of the strangers, filled with joy at the thought that an angel
in woman's form had appeared to soften his beloved young master, and
perhaps even to free him from that early curse.

Sintram sent messengers in all directions to seek for his father, and
to announce to him the arrival of his noble guests. They therefore
found the old knight in his castle, with everything prepared for their
reception. Gabrielle could not enter the vast dark-looking building
without a slight shudder, which was increased when she saw the rolling
fiery eyes of its lord; even the pale, dark-haired Sintram seemed to her
very fearful; and she sighed to herself, "Oh! what an awful abode have
you brought me to visit, my knight! Would that we were once again in my
sunny Gascony, or in your knightly Normandy!"

But the grave yet courteous reception, the deep respect paid to her
grace and beauty, and to the high fame of Folko, helped to re-assure
her; and soon her bird-like pleasure in novelties was awakened through
the strange significant appearance of this new world. And besides, it
could only be for a passing moment that any womanly fears found a place
in her breast when her lord was near at hand, for well did she know what
effectual protection that brave Baron was ever ready to afford to all
those who were dear to him, or committed to his charge.

Soon afterwards Rolf passed through the great hall in which Biorn and
his guests were seated, conducting their attendants, who had charge of
the baggage, to their rooms. Gabrielle caught sight of her favourite
lute, and desired a page to bring it to her, that she might see if the
precious instrument had been injured by the sea-voyage. As she bent over
it with earnest attention, and her taper fingers ran up and down
the strings, a smile, like the dawn of spring, passed over the dark
countenances of Biorn and his son; and both said, with an involuntary
sigh, "Ah! if you would but play on that lute, and sing to it! It would
be but too beautiful!" The lady looked up at them, well pleased, and
smiling her assent, she began this song:--


             "Songs and flowers are returning,
                And radiant skies of May,
              Earth her choicest gifts is yielding,
                But one is past away.

              The spring that clothes with tend'rest green
                Each grove and sunny plain,
              Shines not for my forsaken heart,
                Brings not my joys again.

              Warble not so, thou nightingale,
                Upon thy blooming spray,
              Thy sweetness now will burst my heart,
                I cannot bear thy lay.

              For flowers and birds are come again,
                And breezes mild of May,
              But treasured hopes and golden hours
                Are lost to me for aye!"


The two Norwegians sat plunged in melancholy thought; but especially
Sintram's eyes began to brighten with a milder expression, his cheeks
glowed, every feature softened, till those who looked at him could
have fancied they saw a glorified spirit. The good Rolf, who had stood
listening to the song, rejoiced thereat from his heart, and devoutly
raised his hands in pious gratitude to heaven. But Gabrielle's
astonishment suffered her not to take her eyes from Sintram. At last she
said to him, "I should much like to know what has so struck you in that
little song. It is merely a simple lay of the spring, full of the
images which that sweet season never fails to call up in the minds of my
countrymen."

"But is your home really so lovely, so wondrously rich in song?" cried
the enraptured Sintram. "Then I am no longer surprised at your heavenly
beauty, at the power which you exercise over my hard, wayward heart! For
a paradise of song must surely send such angelic messengers through the
ruder parts of the world." And so saying, he fell on his knees before
the lady in an attitude of deep humility. Folko looked on all the while
with an approving smile, whilst Gabrielle, in much embarrassment, seemed
hardly to know how to treat the half-wild, half-tamed young stranger.
After some hesitation, however, she held out her fair hand to him, and
said as she gently raised him: "Surely one who listens with such delight
to music must himself know how to awaken its strains. Take my lute, and
let us hear a graceful inspired song."

But Sintram drew back, and would not take the instrument; and he said,
"Heaven forbid that my rough untutored hand should touch those delicate
strings! For even were I to begin with some soft strains, yet before
long the wild spirit which dwells in me would break out, and there would
be an end of the form and sound of the beautiful instrument. No, no;
suffer me rather to fetch my own huge harp, strung with bears' sinews
set in brass, for in truth I do feel myself inspired to play and sing."

Gabrielle murmured a half-frightened assent; and Sintram having quickly
brought his harp, began to strike it loudly, and to sing these words
with a voice no less powerful:


             "Sir knight, sir knight, oh! whither away
              With thy snow-white sail on the foaming spray?"
                 Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers!

             "Too long have I trod upon ice and snow;
              I seek the bowers where roses blow."
                 Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers!

              He steer'd on his course by night and day
              Till he cast his anchor in Naples Bay.
                 Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers!

              There wander'd a lady upon the strand,
              Her fair hair bound with a golden band.
                 Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers!

             "Hail to thee! hail to thee! lady bright,
              Mine own shalt thou be ere morning light."
                 Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers'

             "Not so, sir knight," the lady replied,
             "For you speak to the margrave's chosen bride."
                 Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers!

             "Your lover may come with his shield and spear,
              And the victor shall win thee, lady dear!"
                 Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers!

             "Nay, seek for another bride, I pray;
              Most fair are the maidens of Naples Bay."
                 Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers!

             "No, lady; for thee my heart doth burn,
              And the world cannot now my purpose turn."
                 Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers!

              Then came the young margrave, bold and brave;
              But low was he laid in a grassy grave.
                 Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers!

              And then the fierce Northman joyously cried,
             "Now shall I possess lands, castle, and bride!"
                 Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers!

Sintram's song was ended, but his eyes glared wildly, and the vibrations
of the harp-strings still resounded in a marvellous manner. Biorn's
attitude was again erect; he stroked his long beard and rattled his
sword, as if in great delight at what he had just heard. Much shuddered
Gabrielle before the wild song and these strange forms, but only till
she cast a glance on the Lord of Montfaucon, sat there smiling in all
his hero strength, unmoved, the rough uproar passed by him like an
autumnal storm.



CHAPTER 7



Some weeks after this, in the twilight of evening, Sintram, very
disturbed, came down to the castle-garden. Although the presence of
Gabrielle never failed to soothe and calm him, yet if she left the
apartment for even a few instants, the fearful wildness of his spirit
seemed to return with renewed strength. So even now, after having long
and kindly read legends of the olden times to his father Biorn, she had
retired to her chamber. The tones of her lute could be distinctly heard
in the garden below; but the sounds only drove the bewildered youth more
impetuously through the shades of the ancient elms. Stooping suddenly
to avoid some overhanging branches, he unexpectedly came upon something
against which he had almost struck, and which, at first sight, he took
for a small bear standing on its hind legs, with a long and strangely
crooked horn on its head. He drew back in surprise and fear. It
addressed him in a grating man's voice: "Well, my brave young knight,
whence come you? whither go you? wherefore so terrified?" And then first
he saw that he had before him a little old man so wrapped up in a rough
garment of fur, that scarcely one of his features was visible, and
wearing in his cap a strange-looking long feather.

"But whence come YOU and whither go YOU?" returned the angry Sintram.
"For of you such questions should be asked. What have you to do in our
domains, you hideous little being?"

"Well, well," sneered the other one, "I am thinking that I am quite big
enough as I am--one cannot always be a giant. And as to the rest, why
should you find fault that I go here hunting for snails? Surely snails
do not belong to the game which your high mightinesses consider that
you alone have a right to follow! Now, on the other hand, I know how to
prepare from them an excellent high-flavoured drink; and I have taken
enough for to-day: marvellous fat little beasts, with wise faces like
a man's, and long twisted horns on their heads. Would you like to see
them? Look here!"

And then he began to unfasten and fumble about his fur garment; but
Sintram, filled with disgust and horror, said, "Psha! I detest such
animals! Be quiet, and tell me at once who and what you yourself are."

"Are you so bent upon knowing my name?" replied the little man. "Let it
content you that I am master of all secret knowledge, and well versed in
the most intricate depths of ancient history. Ah! my young sir, if you
would only hear them! But you are afraid of me."

"Afraid of you!" cried Sintram, with a wild laugh.

"Many a better man than you has been so before now," muttered the little
Master; "but they did not like being told of it any more than you do."

"To prove that you are mistaken," said Sintram, "I will remain here with
you till the moon stands high in the heavens. But you must tell me one
of your stories the while."

The little man, much pleased, nodded his head; and as they paced
together up and down a retired elm-walk, he began discoursing as
follows:--

"Many hundred years ago a young knight, called Paris of Troy, lived in
that sunny land of the south where are found the sweetest songs, the
brightest flowers, and the most beautiful ladies. You know a song that
tells of that fair land, do you not, young sir? 'Sing heigh, sing ho,
for that land of flowers.'" Sintram bowed his head in assent, and sighed
deeply. "Now," resumed the little Master, "it happened that Paris led
that kind of life which is not uncommon in those countries, and of which
their poets often sing--he would pass whole months together in the
garb of a peasant, piping in the woods and mountains and pasturing
his flocks. Here one day three beautiful sorceresses appeared to him,
disputing about a golden apple; and from him they sought to know which
of them was the most beautiful, since to her the golden fruit was to be
awarded. The first knew how to give thrones, and sceptres, and crowns;
the second could give wisdom and knowledge; and the third could prepare
philtres and love-charms which could not fail of securing the affections
of the fairest of women. Each one in turn proffered her choicest gifts
to the young shepherd, in order that, tempted by them, he might adjudge
the apple to her. But as fair women charmed him more than anything else
in the world, he said that the third was the most beautiful--her name
was Venus. The two others departed in great displeasure; but Venus
bid him put on his knightly armour and his helmet adorned with waving
feathers, and then she led him to a famous city called Sparta, where
ruled the noble Duke Menelaus. His young Duchess Helen was the loveliest
woman on earth, and the sorceress offered her to Paris in return for
the golden apple. He was most ready to have her and wished for nothing
better; but he asked how he was to gain possession of her."

"Paris must have been a sorry knight," interrupted Sintram. "Such things
are easily settled. The husband is challenged to a single combat, and he
that is victorious carries off the wife."

"But Duke Menelaus was the host of the young knight," said the narrator.

"Listen to me, little Master," cried Sintram; "he might have asked the
sorceress for some other beautiful woman, and then have mounted his
horse, or weighed anchor, and departed."

"Yes, yes; it is very easy to say so," replied the old man. "But if you
only knew how bewitchingly lovely this Duchess Helen was, no room was
left for change." And then he began a glowing description of the charms
of this wondrously beautiful woman, but likening the image to Gabrielle
so closely, feature for feature, that Sintram, tottering, was forced to
lean against a tree. The little Master stood opposite to him grinning,
and asked, "Well now, could you have advised that poor knight Paris to
fly from her?"

"Tell me at once what happened next," stammered Sintram.

"The sorceress acted honourably towards Paris," continued the old man.
"She declared to him that if he would carry away the lovely duchess to
his own city Troy, he might do so, and thus cause the ruin of his whole
house and of his country; but that during ten years he would be able to
defend himself in Troy, and rejoice in the sweet love of Helen."

"And he accepted those terms, or he was a fool!" cried the youth.

"To be sure he accepted them," whispered the little Master. "I would
have done so in his place! And do you know, young sir, the look of
things then was just as they are happening to-day. The newly-risen moon,
partly veiled by clouds, was shining dimly through the thick branches of
the trees in the silence of evening. Leaning against an old tree, as you
now are doing, stood the young enamoured knight Paris, and at his side
the enchantress Venus, but so disguised and transformed, that she did
not look much more beautiful than I do. And by the silvery light of the
moon, the form of the beautiful beloved one was seen sweeping by alone
amidst the whispering boughs." He was silent, and like as in the mirror
of his deluding words, Gabrielle just then actually herself appeared,
musing as she walked alone down the alley of elms.

"Man,--fearful Master,--by what name shall I call you? To what would you
drive me?" muttered the trembling Sintram.

"Thou knowest thy father's strong stone castle on the Moon-rocks?"
replied the old man. "The castellan and the garrison are true and
devoted to thee. It could stand a ten years' siege; and the little gate
which leads to the hills is open, as was that of the citadel of Sparta
for Paris."

And, in fact, the youth saw through a gate, left open he knew not how,
the dim, distant mountains glittering in the moonlight. "And if he did
not accept, he was a fool," said the little Master, with a grin, echoing
Sintram's former words.

At that moment Gabrielle stood close by him. She was within reach of his
grasp, had he made the least movement; and a moonbeam, suddenly breaking
forth, transfigured, as it were, her heavenly beauty. The youth had
already bent forward--


             "My Lord and God, I pray,
              Turn from his heart away
                  This world's turmoil;
              And call him to Thy light,
              Be it through sorrow's night,
                  Through pain or toil."


These words were sung by old Rolf at that very time, as he lingered
on the still margin of the castle fish-pond, where he prayed alone to
Heaven, full of foreboding care. They reached Sintram's ear; he stood
as if spellbound and made the Sign of the Cross. Immediately the little
master fled away, jumping uncouthly on one leg, through the gates and
shutting them after him with a yell.

Gabrielle shuddered, terrified at the wild noise. Sintram approached her
softly, and said, offering his arm to her: "Suffer me to lead you back
to the castle. The night in these northern regions is often wild and
fearful."



CHAPTER 8



They found the two knights drinking wine within. Folko was relating
stories in his usual mild and cheerful manner, and Biorn was listening
with a moody air, but yet as if, against his will, the dark cloud might
pass away before that bright and gentle courtesy. Gabrielle saluted the
baron with a smile, and signed to him to continue his discourse, as she
took her place near the knight Biorn, full of watchful kindness. Sintram
stood by the hearth, abstracted and melancholy; and the embers, as he
stirred them, cast a strange glow over his pallid features.

"And of all the German trading-towns," continued Montfaucon, "the
largest and richest is Hamburgh. In Normandy we willingly see their
merchants land on our coasts, and those excellent people never fail to
prove themselves our friends when we seek their advice and assistance.
When I first visited Hamburgh, every honour and respect was paid to me.
I found its inhabitants engaged in a war with a neighbouring count, and
immediately I used my sword for them, vigorously and successfully."

"Your sword! your knightly sword!" interrupted Biorn; and the old wonted
fire flashed from his eyes. "Against a knight, and for shopkeepers!"

"Sir knight," replied Folko, calmly, "the barons of Montfaucon have ever
used their swords as they chose, without the interference of another;
and as I have received this good custom, so do I wish to hand it on. If
you agree not to this, so speak it freely out. But I forbid every rude
word against the men of Hamburgh, since I have declared them to be my
friends."

Biorn cast down his haughty eyes, and their fire faded away. In a low
voice he said, "Proceed, noble baron. You are right, and I am wrong."

Then Folko stretched out his hand to him across the table, and resumed
his narration: "Amongst all my beloved Hamburghers the dearest to me are
two men of marvellous experience--a father and son. What have they not
seen and done in the remotest corners of the earth, and instituted
in their native town! Praise be to God, my life cannot be called
unfruitful; but, compared with the wise Gotthard Lenz and his
stout-hearted son Rudlieb, I look upon myself as an esquire who has
perhaps been some few times to tourneys, and, besides that, has never
hunted out his own forests. They have converted, subdued, gladdened,
dark men whom I know not how to name; and the wealth which they have
brought back with them has all been devoted to the common weal, as if
fit for no other purpose. On their return from their long and perilous
sea-voyages, they hasten to an hospital which has been founded by them,
and where they undertake the part of overseers, and of careful and
patient nurses. Then they proceed to select the most fitting spots
whereon to erect new towers and fortresses for the defence of their
beloved country. Next they repair to the houses where strangers and
travellers receive hospitality at their cost; and at last they return to
their own abode, to entertain their guests, rich and noble like kings,
and simple and unconstrained like shepherds. Many a tale of their
wondrous adventures serves to enliven these sumptuous feasts. Amongst
others, I remember to have heard my friends relate one at which my hair
stood on end. Possibly I may gain some more complete information on the
subject from you. It appears that several years ago, just about the time
of the Christmas festival, Gotthard and Rudlieb were shipwrecked on
the coast of Norway, during a violent winter tempest. They could never
exactly ascertain the situation of the rocks on which their vessel
stranded; but so much is certain, that very near the sea-shore stood a
huge castle, to which the father and son betook themselves, seeking for
that assistance and shelter which Christian people are ever willing
to afford each other in case of need. They went alone, leaving their
followers to watch the injured ship. The castle-gates were thrown open,
and they thought all was well. But on a sudden the court-yard was filled
with armed men, who with one accord aimed their sharp iron-pointed
spears at the defenceless strangers, whose dignified remonstrances
and mild entreaties were only heard in sullen silence or with
scornful jeerings. After a while a knight came down the stairs, with
fire-flashing eyes. They hardly knew whether to think they saw a
spectre, or a wild heathen; he gave a signal, and the fatal spears
closed around them. At that instant the soft tones of a woman's voice
fell on their ear, calling on the Saviour's holy name for aid; at the
sound, the spectres in the court-yard rushed madly one against the
other, the gates burst open, and Gotthard and Rudlieb fled away,
catching a glimpse as they went of an angelic woman who appeared at one
of the windows of the castle. They made every exertion to get their ship
again afloat, choosing to trust themselves to the sea rather than to
that barbarous coast; and at last, after manifold dangers, they landed
at Denmark. They say that some heathen must have owned the cruel castle;
but I hold it to be some ruined fortress, deserted by men, in which
hellish spectres were wont to hold their nightly meetings. What heathen
could be found so demon-like as to offer death to shipwrecked strangers,
instead of refreshment and shelter?"

Biorn gazed fixedly on the ground, as though he were turned into stone
but Sintram came towards the table, and said, "Father, let us seek out
this godless abode, and lay it level with the dust. I cannot tell how,
but somehow I feel quite sure that the accursed deed of which we have
just heard is alone the cause of my frightful dreams."

Enraged at his son, Biorn rose up, and would perhaps again have uttered
some dreadful words; but Heaven decreed otherwise, for just at that
moment the pealing notes a trumpet were heard, which drowned the angry
tones his voice, the great doors opened slowly, and a herald entered the
hall. He bowed reverently, and then said, "I am sent by Jarl Eric the
Aged. He returned two days ago from his expedition to the Grecian seas.
His wish had been to take vengeance on the island which is called
Chios, where fifty years ago his father was slain by the soldiers of the
Emperor. But your kinsman, the sea-king Arinbiorn, who was lying there
at anchor, tried to pacify him. To this Jarl Eric would not listen;
so the sea-king said next that he would never suffer Chios to be laid
waste, because it was an island where the lays of an old Greek bard,
called Homer, were excellently sung, and where more-over a very choice
wine was made. Words proving of no avail, a combat ensued; in which
Arinbiorn had so much the advantage that Jarl Eric lost two of his
ships, and only with difficulty escaped in one which had already
sustained great damage. Eric the Aged has now resolved to take revenge
on some of the sea-king's race, since Arinbiorn himself is seldom on the
spot. Will you, Biorn of the Fiery Eyes, at once pay as large a penalty
in cattle, and money, and goods, as it may please the Jarl to demand?
Or will you prepare to meet him with an armed force at Niflung's Heath
seven days hence?"

Biorn bowed his head quietly, and replied in a mild tone, "Seven days
hence at Niflung's Heath." He then offered to the herald a golden goblet
full of rich wine, and added, "Drink that, and then carry off with thee
the cup which thou hast emptied."

"The Baron of Montfaucon likewise sends greeting to thy chieftain, Jarl
Eric," interposed Folko; "and engages to be also at Niflung's Heath, as
the hereditary friend of the sea-king, and also as the kinsman and guest
of Biorn of the Fiery Eyes."

The herald was seen to tremble at the name of Montfaucon; he bowed very
low, cast an anxious, reverential look at the baron, and left the hall.

Gabrielle looked on her knight, smiling lovingly and securely, for she
well knew his victorious prowess; and she only asked, "Where shall I
remain, whilst you go forth to battle, Folko?"

"I had hoped," answered Biorn, "that you would be well contented to stay
in this castle, lovely lady; I leave my son to guard you and attend on
you."

Gabrielle hesitated an instant; and Sintram, who had resumed his
position near the fire, muttered to himself as he fixed his eyes on the
bright flames which were flashing up, "Yes, yes, so it will probably
happen. I can fancy that Duke Menelaus had just left Sparta on some
warlike expedition, when the young knight Paris met the lovely Helen
that evening in the garden."

But Gabrielle, shuddering although she knew not why, said quickly,
"Without you, Folko? And must I forego the joy of seeing you fight? or
the honour of tending you, should you chance to receive a wound?"

Folko bowed, gracefully thanking his lady, and replied, "Come with your
knight, since such is your pleasure, and be to him a bright guiding
star. It is a good old northern custom that ladies should be present at
knightly combats, and no true warrior of the north will fail to respect
the place whence beams the light of their eyes. Unless, indeed,"
continued he with an inquiring look at Biorn, "unless Jarl Eric is not
worthy of his forefather?"

"A man of honour," said Biorn confidently.

"Then array yourself, my fairest love," said the delighted Folko; "array
yourself and come forth with us to the battle-field to behold and judge
our deeds."

"Come forth with us to the battle," echoed Sintram in a sudden transport
of joy.

And they all dispersed in calm cheerfulness; Sintram betaking himself
again to the wood, while the others retired to rest.



CHAPTER 9



It was a wild dreary tract of country that, which bore the name of
Niflung's Heath. According to tradition, the young Niflung, son
of Hogni, the last of his race, had there ended darkly a sad and
unsuccessful life. Many ancient grave-stones were still standing round
about; and in the few oak-trees scattered here and there over the plain,
huge eagles had built their nests. The beating of their heavy wings as
they fought together, and their wild screams, were heard far off in
more thickly-peopled regions; and at the sound children would tremble
in their cradles, and old men quake with fear as they slumbered over the
blazing hearth.

As the seventh night, the last before the day of combat, was just
beginning, two large armies were seen descending from the hills in
opposite directions; that which came from the west was commanded by Eric
the Aged, that from the east by Biorn of the Fiery Eyes. They appeared
thus early in compliance with the custom which required that adversaries
should always present themselves at the appointed field of battle before
the time named, in order to prove that they rather sought than dreaded
the fight. Folko forthwith pitched on the most convenient spot the tent
of blue samite fringed with gold, which he carried with him to shelter
his gentle lady; whilst Sintram, in the character of herald, rode
over to Jarl Eric to announce to him that the beauteous Gabrielle of
Montfaucon was present in the army of the knight Biorn, and would the
next morning be present as a judge of the combat.

Jarl Eric bowed low on receiving this pleasing message; and ordered his
bards to strike up a lay, the words of which ran as follows:--


             "Warriors bold of Eric's band,
              Gird your glittering armour on,
              Stand beneath to-morrow's sun,
                                      In your might.

              Fairest dame that ever gladden'd
              Our wild shores with beauty's vision,
              May thy bright eyes o'er our combat,
                                      Judge the right!

              Tidings of yon noble stranger
              Long ago have reach'd our ears,
              Wafted upon southern breezes,
                                      O'er the wave.

              Now midst yonder hostile ranks,
              In his warlike pride he meets us,
              Folko comes! Fight, men of Eric,
                                      True and brave!"


These wondrous tones floated over the plain, and reached the tent
of Gabrielle. It was no new thing to her to hear her knight's fame
celebrated on all sides; but now that she listened to his praises
bursting forth in the stillness of night from the mouth of his enemies,
she could scarce refrain from kneeling at the feet of the mighty
chieftain. But he with courteous tenderness held her up, and pressing
his lips fervently on her soft hand, he said, "My deeds, O lovely lady,
belong to thee, and not to me!"

Now the night had passed away, and the east was glowing; and on
Niflung's Heath there was waving, and resounding, and glowing too.
Knights put on their rattling armour, war-horses began to neigh, the
morning draught went round in gold and silver goblets, while war-songs
and the clang of harps resounded in the midst. A joyous march was heard
in Biorn's camp, as Montfaucon, with his troops and retainers, clad in
bright steel armour, conducted their lady up to a neighbouring hill,
where she would be safe from the spears which would soon be flying in
all directions, and whence she could look freely over the battle-field.
The morning sun, as it were in homage, played over her beauty; and as
she came in view of the camp of Jarl Eric, his soldiers lowered their
weapons, whilst the chieftains bent low the crests of their huge
helmets. Two of Montfaucon's pages remained in attendance on Gabrielle;
for so noble a service not unwillingly bridling their love of fighting.
Both armies passed in front of her, saluting her and singing as they
went; they then placed themselves in array, and the fight began.

The spears flew from the hands of the stout northern warriors, rattling
against the broad shields under which they sheltered themselves, or
sometimes clattering as they met in the air; at intervals, on one side
or the other, a man was struck, and fell silent in his blood. Then the
Knight of Montfaucon advanced with his troop of Norman horsemen--even
as he dashed past, he did not fail to lower his shining sword to salute
Gabrielle; and then with an exulting war-cry, which burst from many a
voice, they charged the left wing of the enemy. Eric's foot-soldiers,
kneeling firmly, received them with fixed javelins--many a noble horse
fell wounded to death, and in falling brought his rider with him to the
ground; others again crushed their foes under them in their death-fall.
Folko rushed through--he and his war-steed unwounded--followed by
a troop of chosen knights. Already were they falling into
disorder--already were Biorn's warriors giving shouts of victory--when
a troop of horse, headed by Jarl Eric himself, advanced against the
valiant baron; and whilst his Normans, hastily assembled, assisted
him in repelling this new attack, the enemy's infantry were gradually
forming themselves into a thick mass, which rolled on and on. All these
movements seemed caused by a warrior whose loud piercing shout was in
the midst. And scarcely were the troops formed into this strange
array, when suddenly they spread themselves out on all sides, carrying
everything before them with the irresistible force of the burning
torrent from Hecla.

Biorn's soldiers, who had thought to enclose their enemies, lost courage
and gave way before this wondrous onset. The knight himself in vain
attempted to stem the tide of fugitives, and with difficulty escaped
being carried away by it.

Sintram stood looking on this scene of confusion with mute indignation;
friends and foes passed by him, all equally avoiding him, and dreading
to come in contact with one whose aspect was so fearful, nay, almost
unearthly, in his motionless rage. He aimed no blow either to right or
left; his powerful battle-axe rested in his hand; but his eyes flashed
fire, and seemed to be piercing the enemy's ranks through and through,
as if he would find out who it was that had conjured up this sudden
warlike spirit. He succeeded. A small man clothed in strange-looking
armour, with large golden horns on his helmet, and a long visor
advancing in front of it, was leaning on a two-edged curved spear, and
seemed to be looking with derision at the flight of Biorn's troops as
they were pursued by their victorious foes. "That is he," cried Sintram;
"he who will drive us from the field before the eyes of Gabrielle!" And
with the swiftness of an arrow he flew towards him with a wild shout.
The combat was fierce, but not of long duration. To the wondrous
dexterity of his adversary, Sintram opposed his far superior size; and
he dealt so fearful a blow on the horned helmet, that a stream of blood
rushed forth, the small man fell as if stunned, and after some frightful
convulsive movements, his limbs appeared to stiffen in death.

His fall gave the signal for that of all Eric's army. Even those who
had not seen him fall, suddenly lost their courage and eagerness for the
battle, and retreated with uncertain steps, or ran in wild affright on
the spears of their enemies. At the same time Montfaucon was dispersing
Jarl Eric's cavalry, after a desperate conflict--had hurled their chief
from the saddle, and taken him prisoner with his own hand. Biorn of the
Fiery Eyes stood victorious in the middle of the field of battle. The
day was won.



CHAPTER 10



In sight of both armies, with glowing cheeks and looks of modest
humility, Sintram was conducted by the brave baron up the hill where
Gabrielle stood in all the lustre of her beauty. Both warriors bent the
knee before her, and Folko said, solemnly, "Lady, this valiant youth of
a noble race has deserved the reward of this day's victory. I pray you
let him receive it from your fair hand."

Gabrielle bowed courteously, took off her scarf of blue and gold, and
fastened it to a bright sword, which a page brought to her on a cushion
of cloth of silver. She then, with a smile, presented the noble gift to
Sintram, who was bending forward to receive it, when suddenly Gabrielle
drew back, and turning to Folko, said, "Noble baron, should not he on
whom I bestow a scarf and sword be first admitted into the order of
knighthood?" Light as a feather, Folko sprang up, and bowing low before
his lady, gave the youth the accolade with solemn earnestness. Then
Gabrielle buckled on his sword, saying, "For the honour of God and the
service of virtuous ladies, young knight. I saw you fight, I saw you
conquer, and my earnest prayers followed you. Fight and conquer often
again, as you have done this day, that the beams of your renown may
shine over my far-distant country." And at a sign from Folko, she
offered her tender lips for the new knight to kiss. Thrilling all over,
and full of a holy joy, Sintram arose in deep silence, and hot tears
streamed down his softened countenance, whilst the shout and the
trumpets of the assembled troops greeted the youth with stunning
applause. Old Rolf stood silently on one side, and as he looked in the
mild beaming eyes of his foster-child, he calmly and piously returned
thanks:


             "The strife at length hath found its end,
              Rich blessings now shall heaven send!
                 The evil foe is slain!"


Biorn and Jarl Eric had the while been talking together eagerly, but
not unkindly. The conqueror now led his vanquished enemy up the hill
and presented him to the baron and Gabrielle, saying, "Instead of two
enemies you now see two sworn allies; and I request you, my beloved
guests and kinsfolk, to receive him graciously as one who henceforward
belongs to us."

"He was so always," added Eric, smiling; "I sought, indeed, revenge;
but I have now had enough of defeats both by sea and land. Yet I
thank Heaven that neither in the Grecian seas, to the sea-king, nor in
Niflung's Heath, to you, have I yielded ingloriously."

The Lord of Montfaucon assented cordially, and heartily and solemnly was
reconciliation made. Then Jarl Eric addressed Gabrielle with so noble a
grace, that with a smile of wonder she gazed on the gigantic grey hero,
and gave him her beautiful hand to kiss.

Meanwhile Sintram was speaking earnestly to his good Rolf; and at
length he was heard to say, "But before all, be sure that you bury
that wonderfully brave knight whom my battle-axe smote. Choose out the
greenest hill for his resting-place, and the loftiest oak to shade
his grave. Also, I wish you to open his visor, and to examine his
countenance carefully, that so, though mortally smitten, we may not bury
him alive; and moreover, that you may be able to describe to me him to
whom I owe the noblest prize of victory."

Rolf bowed readily, and went.

"Our young knight is speaking there of one amongst the slain of whom I
should like to hear more," said Folko, turning to Jarl Eric. "Who, dear
Jarl, was that wonderful chieftain who led on your troops so skilfully,
and who at last fell under Sintram's powerful battle-axe?"

"You ask me more than I know how to answer," replied Jarl Eric. "About
three nights ago this stranger made his appearance amongst us. I was
sitting with my chieftains and warriors round the hearth, forging our
armour, and singing the while. Suddenly, above the din of our hammering
and our singing, we heard so loud a noise that it silenced us in a
moment, and we sat motionless as if we had been turned into stone.
Before long the sound was repeated; and at last we made out that it must
be caused by some person blowing a huge horn outside the castle, seeking
for admittance. I went down myself to the gate, and as I passed through
the court-yard all my dogs were so terrified by the extraordinary noise,
as to be howling and crouching in their kennels instead of barking. I
chid them, and called to them, but even the fiercest would not follow
me. Then, thought I, I must show you the way to set to work; so I
grasped my sword firmly, I set my torch on the ground close beside me,
and I let the gates fly open without further delay. For I well knew that
it would be no easy matter for any one to come in against my will. A
loud laugh greeted me, and I heard these words, 'Well, well, what mighty
preparations are these before one small man can find the shelter he
seeks!' And in truth I did feel myself redden with shame when I saw the
small stranger standing opposite to me quite alone. I called to him to
come in at once, and offered my hand to him; but he still showed
some displeasure, and would not give me his in return. As he went up,
however, he became more friendly--he showed me the golden horn on which
he sounded that blast, and which he carried screwed on his helmet, as
well as another exactly like it. When he was sitting with us in the
hall, he behaved in a very strange manner--sometimes he was merry,
sometimes cross; by turns courteous and rude in his demeanour, without
any one being able to see a motive for such constant changes. I
longed to know where he came from; but how could I ask my guest such a
question? He told us as much as this, that he was starved with cold in
our country, and that his own was much warmer. Also he appeared well
acquainted with the city of Constantinople, and related fearful stories
of how brothers, uncles, nephews, nay, even fathers and sons, thrust
each other from the throne, blinded, cut out tongues, and murdered. At
length he said his own name--it sounded harmonious, like a Greek name,
but none of us could remember it. Before long he displayed his skill as
an armourer. He understood marvellously well how to handle the red-hot
iron, and how to form it into more murderous weapons than any I had
ever before seen. I would not suffer him to go on making them, for I was
resolved to meet you in the field with equal arms, and such as we are
all used to in our northern countries. Then he laughed, and said he
thought it would be quite possible to be victorious without them, by
skilful movements and the like if only I would entrust the command of my
infantry to him, I was sure of victory. Then I thought that he who makes
arms well must also wield them well--yet I required some proof of his
powers. Ye lords, he came off victorious in trials of strength such as
you can hardly imagine; and although the fame of young Sintram, as a
bold and brave warrior, is spread far and wide, yet I can scarce believe
that he could slay such an one as my Greek ally."

He would have continued speaking, but the good Rolf came hastily back
with a few followers, the whole party so ghastly pale, that all eyes
were involuntarily fixed on them, and looked anxiously to hear what
tidings they had brought. Rolf stood still, silent and trembling.

"Take courage, my old friend!" cried Sintram. "Whatever thou mayest have
to tell is truth and light from thy faithful mouth."

"My dear master," began the old man, "be not angry, but as to burying
that strange warrior whom you slew, it is a thing impossible. Would
that we had never opened that wide hideous visor! For so horrible a
countenance grinned at us from underneath it, so distorted by death, and
with so hellish an expression, that we hardly kept our senses. We could
not by any possibility have touched him. I would rather be sent to kill
wolves and bears in the desert, and look on whilst fierce birds of prey
feast on their carcases."

All present shuddered, and were silent for a time, till Sintram nerved
himself to say, "Dear, good old man, why use such wild words as I never
till now heard thee utter? But tell me, Jarl Eric, did your ally appear
altogether so awful while he was yet alive?"

"Not as far as I know," answered Jarl Eric, looking inquiringly at his
companions, who were standing around. They said the same thing; but on
farther questioning, it appeared that neither the chieftain, nor the
knights, nor the soldiers, could say exactly what the stranger was like.

"We must then find it out for ourselves, and bury the corpse," said
Sintram; and he signed to the assembled party to follow him. All did so
except the Lord of Montfaucon, whom the whispered entreaty of Gabrielle
kept at her side. He lost nothing thereby. For though Niflung's Heath
was searched from one end to the other many times, yet the body of the
unknown warrior was no longer to be found.



CHAPTER 11



The joyful calm which came over Sintram on this day appeared to be more
than a passing gleam. If too, at times, a thought of the knight Paris
and Helen would inflame his heart with bolder and wilder wishes, it
needed but one look at his scarf and sword, and the stream of his inner
life glided again clear as a mirror, and serene within. "What can any
man wish for more than has been already bestowed on me?" would he say to
himself at such times in still delight. And thus it went on for a long
while.

The beautiful northern autumn had already begun to redden the leaves of
the oaks and elms round the castle, when one day it chanced that Sintram
was sitting in company with Folko and Gabrielle in almost the very same
spot in the garden where he had before met that mysterious being whom,
without knowing why, he had named the little Master. But on this day
how different did everything appear! The sun was sinking slowly over
the sea, the mist of an autumnal evening was rising from the fields
and meadows around, towards the hill on which stood the huge castle.
Gabrielle, placing her lute in Sintram's hands, said to him, "Dear
friend, so mild and gentle as you now are, I may well dare to entrust to
you my tender little darling. Let me again hear you sing that lay of the
land of flowers; for I am sure that it will now sound much sweeter than
when you accompanied it with the vibrations of your fearful harp."

The young knight bowed as he prepared to obey the lady's commands. With
a grace and softness hitherto unwonted, the tones resounded from his
lips, and the wild song appeared to transform itself, and to bloom into
a garden of the blessed. Tears stood in Gabrielle's eyes; and Sintram,
as he gazed on the pearly brightness, poured forth tones of yet richer
sweetness. When the last notes were sounded, Gabrielle's angelic voice
was heard to echo them; and as she repeated,


             "Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers,"


Sintram put down the lute, and sighed with a thankful glance towards the
stars, now rising in the heavens. Then Gabrielle, turning towards her
lord, murmured these words: "Oh, how long have we been far away from
our own shining castles and bright gardens! Oh, for that land of the
sweetest flowers!"

Sintram could scarce believe that he heard aright, so suddenly did he
feel himself as if shut out from paradise. But his last hope vanished
before the courteous assurances of Folko that he would endeavour to
fulfil his lady's wishes the very next week, and that their ship was
lying off the shore ready to put to sea. She thanked him with a kiss
imprinted softly on his forehead; and leaning on his arm, she bent her
steps, singing and smiling, towards the castle.

Sintram, troubled in mind, as though turned into stone, remained behind
forgotten. At length, when night was now in the sky, he started up
wildly, ran up and down the garden, as if all his former madness had
again taken possession of him; and then rushed out and wandered upon
the wild moonlit hills. There he dashed his sword against the trees and
bushes, so that on all sides was heard a sound of crashing and falling.
The birds of night flew about him screeching in wild alarm; and the
deer, startled by the noise, sprang away and took refuge in the thickest
coverts.

On a sudden old Rolf appeared, returning home from a visit to the
chaplain of Drontheim, to whom he had been relating, with tears of joy,
how Sintram was softened by the presence of the angel Gabrielle,
yea, almost healed, and how he dared to hope that the evil dreams had
yielded. And now the sword, as it whizzed round the furious youth, had
well-nigh wounded the good old man. He stopped short, and clasping
his hand, he said, with a deep sigh, "Alas, Sintram! my foster-child,
darling of my heart, what has come over thee, thus fearfully stirring
thee to rage?"

The youth stood awhile as if spell-bound; he looked in his old friend's
face with a fixed and melancholy gaze, and his eyes became dim, like
expiring watch-fires seen through a thick cloud of mist. At length
he sighed forth these words, almost inaudibly: "Good Rolf, good Rolf,
depart from me! thy garden of heaven is no home for me; and if sometimes
a light breeze blow open its golden gates, so that I can look in and see
the flowery meadow-land where the dear angels dwell, then straightway
between them and me come the cold north wind and the icy storm, and the
sounding doors fly together, and I remain without, lonely, in endless
winter."

"Beloved young knight, oh, listen to me--listen to the good angel within
you! Do you not bear in your hand that very sword with which the pure
lady girded you? does not her scarf wave over your raging breast? Do you
not recollect how you used to say, that no man could wish for more than
had fallen to you?"

"Yes, Rolf, I have said that," replied Sintram, sinking on the mossy
turf, bitterly weeping. Tears also ran over the old man's white beard.
Before long the youth stood again erect, his tears ceased to flow, his
looks were fearful, cold, and grim; and he said, "You see, Rolf, I have
passed blessed peaceful days, and I thought that the powers of evil
would never again have dominion over me. So, perchance, it might have
been, as day would ever be did the Sun ever stand in the sky. But ask
the poor benighted Earth, wherefore she looks so dark! Bid her again
smile as she was wont to do! Old man, she cannot smile; and now that
the gentle compassionate Moon has disappeared behind the clouds with her
only funeral veil, she cannot even weep. And in this hour of darkness
all that is wild and mad wakes up. So, stop me not, I tell thee, stop me
not! Hurra, behind, behind the pale Moon!" His voice changed to a hoarse
murmur at these last words, storm-like. He tore away from the trembling
old man, and rushed through the forest. Rolf knelt down and prayed, and
wept silently.



CHAPTER 12



Where the sea-beach was wildest, and the cliffs most steep and rugged,
and close by the remains of three shattered oaks, haply marking where,
in heathen times, human victims had been sacrificed, now stood Sintram,
leaning, as if exhausted, on his drawn sword, and gazing intently on
the dancing waves. The moon had again shone forth; and as her pale beams
fell on his motionless figure through the quivering branches of the
trees, he might have been taken for some fearful idol-image. Suddenly
some one on the left half raised himself out of the high withered
grass, uttered a faint groan, and again lay down. Then between the two
companions began this strange talk:

"Thou that movest thyself so strangely in the grass, dost thou belong to
the living or to the dead?"

"As one may take it. I am dead to heaven and joy--I live for hell and
anguish."

"Methinks that I have heard thee before."

"Oh, yes."

"Art thou a troubled spirit? and was thy life-blood poured out here of
old in sacrifice to idols?"

"I am a troubled spirit; but no man ever has, or ever can, shed my
blood. I have been cast down--oh, into a frightful abyss!"

"And didst thou break there thy neck?"

"I live,--and shall live longer than thou."

"Almost thou seemest to me the crazy pilgrim with the dead men's bones."

"I am not he, though often we are companions,--ay, walk together right
near and friendly. But to you be it said, he thinks me mad. If sometimes
I urge him, and say to him, 'Take!' then he hesitates and points
upwards towards the stars. And again, if I say, 'Take not!' then, to a
certainty, he seizes on it in some awkward manner, and so he spoils
my best joys and pleasures. But, in spite of this, we remain in some
measure brothers in arms, and, indeed, all but kinsmen."

"Give me hold of thy hand, and let me help thee to get up."

"Ho, ho! my active young sir, that might bring you no good. Yet, in
fact, you have already helped to raise me. Give heed awhile."

Wilder and ever wilder were the strugglings on the ground; thick clouds
hurried over the moon and the stars, on a long unknown wild journey; and
Sintram's thoughts grew no less wild and stormy, while far and near an
awful howling could be heard amidst the trees and the grass. At length
the mysterious being arose from the ground. As if with a fearful
curiosity, the moon, through a rent in the clouds, cast a beam upon
Sintram's companion, and made clear to the shuddering youth that the
little Master stood, by him.

"Avaunt!" cried he, "I will listen no more to thy evil stories about the
knight Paris: they would end by driving me quite mad."

"My stories about Paris are not needed for that!" grinned the little
Master. "It is enough that the Helen of thy heart should be journeying
towards Montfaucon. Believe me, madness has thee already, head and
heart. Or wouldest thou that she should remain? For that, however, thou
must be more courteous to me than thou art now."

Therewith he raised his voice towards the sea, as if fiercely rebuking
it, so that Sintram could not but shudder and tremble before the dwarf.
But he checked himself, and grasping his sword-hilt with both hands, he
said, contemptuously: "Thou and Gabrielle! what acquaintance hast thou
with Gabrielle?"

"Not much," was the reply. And the little Master might be seen to quake
with fear and rage as he continued: "I cannot well bear the name of
thy Helen; do not din it in my ears ten times in a breath. But if the
tempest should increase? If the waves should swell, and roll on till
they form a foaming ring round the whole coast of Norway? The voyage to
Montfaucon must in that case be altogether given up, and thy Helen would
remain here, at least through the long, long, dark winter."

"If! if!" replied Sintram, with scorn. "Is the sea thy bond-slave? Are
the storms thy fellow-workmen?"

"They are rebels, accursed rebels," muttered the little Master in his
red beard. "Thou must lend me thy aid, sir knight, if I am to subdue
them; but thou hast not the heart for it."

"Boaster, evil boaster!" answered the youth; "what dost thou ask of me?"

"Not much, sir knight; nothing at all for one who has strength and
ardour of soul. Thou needest only look at the sea steadily and keenly
for one half-hour, without ever ceasing to wish with all thy might that
it should foam and rage and swell, and never again rest till winter has
laid its icy hold upon your mountains. Then winter is enough to hinder
Duke Menelaus from his voyage to Montfaucon. And now give me a lock
of your black hair, which is blowing so wildly about your head, like
ravens' or vultures' wings."

The youth drew his sharp dagger, madly cut off a lock of his hair,
threw it to the strange being, and now gazed, as he desired, powerfully
wishing, on the waves of the sea. And softly, quite softly, did the
waters stir themselves, as one whispers in troubled dreams who would
gladly rest and cannot. Sintram was on the point of giving up, when in
the moonbeams a ship appeared, with white-swelling sails, towards the
south. Anguish came over him, that Gabrielle would soon thus quickly
sail away; he wished again with all his power, and fixed his eyes
intently on the watery abyss. "Sintram," a voice might have said to
him--"ah, Sintram, art thou indeed the same who so lately wert gazing on
the moistened heaven of the eyes of Gabrielle?"

And now the waters heaved more mightily, and the howling tempest swept
over the ocean; the breakers, white with foam, became visible in the
moonlight. Then the little Master threw the lock of Sintram's hair up
towards the clouds, and, as it was blown to and fro by the blast of
wind, the storm burst in all its fury, so that sea and sky were covered
with one thick cloud, and far off might be heard the cries of distress
from many a sinking vessel.

But the crazy pilgrim with the dead men's bones rose up in the midst of
the waves, close to the shore, gigantic, tall, fearfully rocking; the
boat in which he stood was hidden from sight, so mightily raged the
waves round about it.

"Thou must save him, little Master--thou must certainly save him," cried
Sintram's voice, angrily entreating, through the roaring of the winds
and waves. But the dwarf replied, with a laugh: "Be quite at rest for
him; he will be able to save himself. The waves can do him no harm.
Seest thou? They are only begging of him, and therefore they jump up so
boldly round him; and he gives them bountiful alms--very bountiful, that
I can assure thee."

In fact, as it seemed, the pilgrim threw some bones into the sea, and
passed scatheless on his way. Sintram felt his blood run cold with
horror, and he rushed wildly towards the castle. His companion had
either fled or vanished away.



CHAPTER 13



In the castle, Biorn and Gabrielle and Folko of Montfaucon were sitting
round the great stone table, from which, since the arrival of his noble
guests, those suits of armour had been removed, formerly the established
companions of the lord of the castle, and placed all together in a heap
in the adjoining room. At this time, while the storm was beating so
furiously against doors and windows, it seemed as if the ancient armour
were also stirring in the next room, and Gabrielle several times half
rose from her seat in great alarm, fixing her eyes on the small iron
door, as though she expected to see an armed spectre issue therefrom,
bending with his mighty helmet through the low vaulted doorway.

The knight Biorn smiled grimly, and said, as if he had guessed her
thoughts: "Oh, he will never again come out thence; I have put an end to
that for ever."

His guests stared at him doubtingly; and with a strange air of
unconcern, as though the storm had awakened all the fierceness of his
soul, he began the following history:

"I was once a happy man myself; I could smile, as you do, and I could
rejoice in the morning as you do; that was before the hypocritical
chaplain had so bewildered the wise mind of my lovely wife with his
canting talk, that she went into a cloister, and left me alone with our
wild boy. That was not fair usage from the fair Verena. Well, so it was,
that in the first days of her dawning beauty, before I knew her, many
knights sought her hand, amongst whom was Sir Weigand the Slender;
and towards him the gentle maiden showed herself the most favourably
inclined. Her parents were well aware that Weigand's rank and station
were little below their own, and that his early fame as a warrior
without reproach stood high; so that before long Verena and he were
accounted as affianced. It happened one day that they were walking
together in the orchard, when a shepherd was driving his flock up the
mountain beyond. The maiden saw a little snow-white lamb frolicking
gaily, and longed for it. Weigand vaults over the railings, overtakes
the shepherd, and offers him two gold bracelets for the lamb. But the
shepherd will not part with it, and scarcely listens to the knight,
going quietly the while up the mountain-side, with Weigand close upon
him. At last Weigand loses patience. He threatens; and the shepherd,
sturdy and proud like all of his race in our northern land, threatens
in return. Suddenly Weigand's sword resounds upon his head,--the stroke
should have fallen flat, but who can control a fiery horse or a drawn
sword? The bleeding shepherd, with a cloven skull, falls down the
precipice; his frightened flock bleats on the mountain. Only the little
lamb runs in its terror to the orchard, pushes itself through the
garden-rails, and lies at Verena's feet, as if asking for help, all
red with its master's blood. She took it up in her arms, and from that
moment never suffered Weigand the Slender to appear again before her
face. She continued to cherish the little lamb, and seemed to take
pleasure in nothing else in the world, and became pale and turned
towards heaven, as the lilies are. She would soon have taken the veil,
but just then I came to aid her father in a bloody war, and rescued
him from his enemies. The old man represented this to her, and, softly
smiling, she gave me her lovely hand. His grief would not suffer the
unhappy Weigand to remain in his own country. It drove him forth as a
pilgrim to Asia, whence our forefathers came, and there he did wonderful
deeds, both of valour and self-abasement. Truly, my heart was strangely
weak when I heard him spoken of at that time. After some years he
returned, and wished to build a church or monastery on that mountain
towards the west, whence the walls of my castle are distinctly seen.
It was said that he wished to become a priest there, but it fell out
otherwise. For some pirates had sailed from the southern seas, and,
hearing of the building of this monastery, their chief thought to
find much gold belonging to the lord of the castle and to the master
builders, or else, if he surprised and carried them off, to extort from
them a mighty ransom. He did not yet know northern courage and northern
weapons; but he soon gained that knowledge. Having landed in the creek
under the black rocks, he made his way through a by-path up to the
building, surrounded it, and thought in himself that the affair was now
ended. Ha! then out rushed Weigand and his builders, and fell upon them
with swords and hatchets and hammers. The heathens fled away to their
ships, with Weigand behind to take vengeance on them. In passing by our
castle he caught a sight of Verena on the terrace, and, for the first
time during so many years, she bestowed a courteous and kind salutation
on the glowing victor. At that moment a dagger, hurled by one of the
pirates in the midst of his hasty flight, struck Weigand's uncovered
head, and he fell to the ground bleeding and insensible. We completed
the rout of the heathens: then I had the wounded knight brought into the
castle; and my pale Verena glowed as lilies in the light of the morning
sun, and Weigand opened his eyes with a smile when he was brought near
her. He refused to be taken into any room but the small one close to
this where the armour is now placed; for he said that he felt as if
it were a cell like that which he hoped soon to inhabit in his quiet
cloister. All was done after his wish: my sweet Verena nursed him, and
he appeared at first to be on the straightest road to recovery; but his
head continued weak and liable to be confused by the slightest emotion,
his walk was rather a falling than a walking, and his cheeks were
colourless. We could not let him go. When we were sitting here together
in the evening, he used always to come tottering into the hall through
the low doorway; and my heart was sad and wrathful too, when the soft
eyes of Verena beamed so sweetly on him, and a glow like that of the
evening sky hovered over her lily cheeks. But I bore it, and I could
have borne it to the end of our lives,--when, alas! Verena went into a
cloister!"

His head fell so heavily on his folded hands, that the stone table
seemed to groan beneath it, and he remained a long while motionless as a
corpse. When he again raised himself up, his eyes glared fearfully as he
looked round the hall, and he said to Folko: "Your beloved Hamburghers,
Gotthard Lenz, and Rudlieb his son, they have much to answer for! Who
bid them come and be shipwrecked so close to my castle?"

Folko cast a piercing look on him, and a fearful inquiry was on the
point of escaping his lips, but another look at the trembling Gabrielle
made him silent, at least for the present moment, and the knight Biorn
continued his narrative.

"Verena was with her nuns, I was left alone, and my despair had driven
me throughout the day through forest and brook and mountain. In the
twilight I returned to my deserted castle, and scarcely was I in the
hall, when the little door creaked, and Weigand, who had slept through
all, crept towards me and asked: 'Where can Verena be?' Then I became as
mad, and howled to him, 'She is gone mad, and so am I, and you also, and
now we are all mad!' Merciful Heaven, the wound on his head burst open,
and a dark stream flowed over his face--ah! how different from the
redness when Verena met him at the castle-gate; and he rushed forth,
raving mad, into the wilderness without, and ever since has wandered all
around as a crazy pilgrim."

He was silent, and so were Folko and Gabrielle, all three pale and cold
like images of the dead. At length the fearful narrator added in a low
voice, and as if he were quite exhausted: "He has visited me since that
time, but he will never again come through the little door. Have I not
established peace and order in my castle?"



CHAPTER 14



Sintram had not returned home, when those of the castle betook
themselves to rest in deep bewilderment. No one thought of him, for
every heart was filled with strange forebodings, and with uncertain
cares. Even the heroic breast of the Knight of Montfaucon heaved in
doubt.

Old Rolf still remained without, weeping in the forest, heedless of the
storm which beat on his unprotected head, while he waited for his young
master. But he had gone a very different way; and when the morning
dawned, he entered the castle from the opposite side.

Gabrielle's slumbers had been sweet during the whole night. It had
seemed to her that angels with golden wings had blown away the wild
histories of the evening before, and had wafted to her the bright
flowers, the sparkling sea, and the green hills of her own home. She
smiled, and drew her breath calmly and softly, whilst the magical
tempest raged and howled through the forests, and continued to battle
with the troubled sea. But in truth when she awoke in the morning,
and heard still the rattling of the windows, and saw the clouds, as if
dissolved in mist and steam, still hiding the face of the heavens, she
could have wept for anxiety and sadness, especially when she heard from
her maidens that Folko had already left their apartment clad in full
armour as if prepared for a combat. At the same time she heard the sound
of the heavy tread of armed men in the echoing halls, and, on inquiring,
found that the Knight of Montfaucon had assembled all his retainers to
be in readiness to protect their lady.

Wrapped in a cloak of ermine, she stood trembling like a tender flower
just sprung up out of the snow, tottering beneath a winter's storm. Then
Sir Folko entered the room, in all his shining armour, and peacefully
carrying his golden helmet with the long shadowy plumes in his hand. He
saluted Gabrielle with cheerful serenity, and at a sign from him, her
attendants retired, while the men-at-arms without were heard quietly
dispersing.

"Lady," said he, as he took his seat beside her, on a couch to which
he led her, already re-assured by his presence: "lady, will you forgive
your knight for having left you to endure some moments of anxiety; but
honour and stern justice called him. Now all is set in order, quietly
and peacefully; dismiss your fears and every thought that has troubled
you, as things which are no more."

"But you and Biorn?" asked Gabrielle. "On the word of a knight," replied
he, "all is well there." And thereupon he began to talk over indifferent
subjects with his usual ease and wit; but Gabrielle, bending towards
him, said with deep emotion:

"O Folko, my knight, the flower of my life, my protector and my dearest
hope on earth, tell me all, if thou mayst. But if a promise binds thee,
it is different. Thou knowest that I am of the race of Portamour, and
I would ask nothing from my knight which could cast even a breath of
suspicion on his spotless shield."

Folko thought gravely for one instant; then looking at her with a bright
smile, he said: "It is not that, Gabrielle; but canst thou bear what
I have to disclose? Wilt thou not sink down under it, as a slender fir
gives way under a mass of snow?"

She raised herself somewhat proudly, and said: "I have already reminded
thee of the name of my father's house. Let me now add, that I am the
wedded wife of the Baron of Montfaucon."

"Then so let it be," replied Folko solemnly; "and if that must come
forth openly which should ever have remained hidden in the darkness
which belongs to such deeds of wickedness, at least let it come forth
less fearfully with a sudden flash. Know then, Gabrielle, that the
wicked knight who would have slain my friends Gotthard and Rudlieb is
none other than our kinsman and host, Biorn of the Fiery Eyes."

Gabrielle shuddered and covered her eyes with her fair hands; but at the
end of a moment she looked up with a bewildered air, and said: "I have
heard wrong surely, although it is true that yesterday evening such a
thought struck me. For did not you say awhile ago that all was settled
and at peace between you and Biorn? Between the brave baron and such a
man after such a crime?"

"You heard aright," answered Folko, looking with fond delight on the
delicate yet high-minded lady. "This morning with the earliest dawn I
went to him and challenged him to a mortal combat in the neighbouring
valley, if he were the man whose castle had well-nigh become an altar of
sacrifice to Gotthard and Rudlieb. He was already completely armed,
and merely saying, 'I am he,' he followed me to the forest. But when
he stood alone at the place of combat, he flung away his shield down
a giddy precipice, then his sword was hurled after it, and next with
gigantic strength he tore off his coat of mail, and said, 'Now fall
on, thou minister of vengeance; for I am a heavy sinner, and I dare
not fight with thee.' How could I then attack him? A strange truce
was agreed on between us. He is half as my vassal, and yet I solemnly
forgave him in my own name and in that of my friends. He was contrite,
and yet no tear was in his eye, no gentle word on his lips. He is only
kept under by the power with which I am endued by having right on my
side, and it is on that tenure that Biorn is my vassal. I know not,
lady, whether you can bear to see us together on these terms; if not, I
will ask for hospitality in some other castle; there are none in Norway
which would not receive us joyfully and honourably, and this wild
autumnal storm may put off our voyage for many a day. Only this I think,
that if we depart directly and in such a manner, the heart of this
savage man will break."

"Where my noble lord remains, there I also remain joyfully under his
protection," replied Gabrielle; and again her heart glowed with rapture
at the greatness of her knight.



CHAPTER 15



The noble lady had just unbuckled her knight's armour with her own
fair hands,--on the field of battle alone were pages or esquires bidden
handle Montfaucon's armour,--and now she was throwing over his shoulders
his mantle of blue velvet embroidered with gold, when the door opened
gently, and Sintram entered the room, humbly greeting them. Gabrielle
received him kindly, as she was wont, but suddenly turning pale, she
looked away and said:

"O Sintram, what has happened to you? And how can one single night have
so fearfully altered you?"

Sintram stood still, thunderstruck, and feeling as if he himself did
not know what had befallen him. Then Folko took him by the hand, led him
towards a bright polished shield, and said very earnestly, "Look here at
yourself, young knight!"

At the first glance Sintram drew back horrified. He fancied that he saw
the little Master before him with that single upright feather sticking
out of his cap; but he at length perceived that the mirror was only
showing him his own image and none other, and that his own wild dagger
had given him this strange and spectre-like aspect, as he could not deny
to himself.

"Who has done that to you?" asked Folko, yet more grave and solemn. "And
what terror makes your disordered hair stand on end?"

Sintram knew not what to answer. He felt as if a judgment were coming
on him, and a shameful degrading from his knightly rank. Suddenly Folko
drew him away from the shield, and taking him towards the rattling
window, he asked: "Whence comes this tempest?"

Still Sintram kept silence. His limbs began to tremble under him; and
Gabrielle, pale and terrified, whispered, "O Folko, my knight, what has
happened? Oh, tell me; are we come into an enchanted castle?"

"The land of our northern ancestors," replied Folko with solemnity, "is
full of mysterious knowledge. But we may not, for all that, call its
people enchanters; still this youth has cause to watch himself narrowly;
he whom the evil one has touched by so much as one hair of his head..."

Sintram heard no more; with a deep groan he staggered out of the room.
As he left it, he met old Rolf, still almost benumbed by the cold and
storms of the night. Now, in his joy at again seeing his young master,
he did not remark his altered appearance; but as he accompanied him to
his sleeping-room he said, "Witches and spirits of the tempest must
have taken up their abode on the sea-shore. I am certain that such wild
storms never arise without some devilish arts."

Sintram fell into a fainting-fit, from which Rolf could with difficulty
recover him sufficiently to appear in the great hall at the mid-day
hour. But before he went down, he caused a shield to be brought, saw
himself therein, and cut close round, in grief and horror, the rest of
his long black hair, so that he made himself look almost like a monk;
and thus he joined the others already assembled round the table.
They all looked at him with surprise; but old Biorn rose up and said
fiercely, "Are you going to betake yourself to the cloister, as well as
the fair lady your mother?"

A commanding look from the Baron of Montfaucon checked any further
outbreak; and as if in apology, Biorn added, with a forced smile, "I was
only thinking if any accident had befallen him, like Absalom's, and if
he had been obliged to save himself from being strangled by parting with
all his hair."

"You should not jest with holy things," answered the baron severely,
and all were silent. No sooner was the repast ended, than Folko and
Gabrielle, with a grave and courteous salutation, retired to their
apartments.



CHAPTER 16



Life in the castle took from this time quite another form. Those two
bright beings, Folko and Gabrielle, spent most part of the day in their
apartments, and when they showed themselves, it was with quiet dignity
and grave silence, while Biorn and Sintram stood before them in humble
fear. Nevertheless, Biorn could not bear the thought of his guests
seeking shelter in any other knight's abode. When Folko once spoke of
it, something like a tear stood in the wild man's eye. His head sank,
and he said softly, "As you please; but I feel that if you go, I shall
run among the rocks for days."

And thus they all remained together; for the storm continued to rage
with such increasing fury over the sea, that no sea voyage could be
thought of, and the oldest man in Norway could not call to mind such
an autumn. The priests examined all the runic books, the bards looked
through their lays and tales, and yet they could find no record of the
like. Biorn and Sintram braved the tempest; but during the few hours
in which Folko and Gabrielle showed themselves, the father and son were
always in the castle, as if respectfully waiting upon them; the rest
of the day--nay, often through whole nights, they rushed through the
forests and over the rocks in pursuit of bears. Folko the while called
up all the brightness of his fancy, all his courtly grace, in order to
make Gabrielle forget that she was living in this wild castle, and that
the long, hard northern winter was setting in, which would ice them in
for many a month. Sometimes he would relate bright tales; then he would
play the liveliest airs to induce Gabrielle to lead a dance with her
attendants; then, again, handing his lute to one of the women, he would
himself take a part the dance, well knowing to express thereby after
some new fashion his devotion to his lady. Another time he would have
the spacious halls of the castle prepared for his armed retainers to
go through their warlike exercises, and Gabrielle always adjudged the
reward to the conqueror. Folko often joined the circle of combatants; so
that he only met their attacks, defending himself, but depriving no one
of the prize. The Norwegians, who stood around as spectators, used
to compare him to the demi-god Baldur, one of the heroes of their old
traditions, who was wont to let the darts of his companions be all
hurled against him, conscious that he was invulnerable, and of his own
indwelling strength.

At the close of one of these martial exercises, old Rolf advanced
towards Folko, and beckoning him with an humble look, said softly, "They
call you the beautiful mighty Baldur,--and they are right. But even the
beautiful mighty Baldur did not escape death. Take heed to yourself."
Folko looked at him wondering. "Not that I know of any treachery,"
continued the old man; "or that I can even foresee the likelihood of
any. God keep a Norwegian from such a fear. But when you stand before
me in all the brightness of your glory, the fleetingness of everything
earthly weighs down my mind, and I cannot refrain from saying, 'Take
heed, noble baron! oh, take heed! Even the most beautiful glory comes to
an end.'"

"Those are wise and pious thoughts," replied Folko calmly, "and I will
treasure them in a pure heart."

The good Rolf was often with Folko and Gabrielle, and made a connecting
link between the two widely differing parties in the castle. For how
could he have ever forsaken his own Sintram! Only in the wild hunting
expeditions through the howling storms and tempests he no longer was
able to follow his young lord.

At length the icy reign of winter began in all its glory. On this
account a return to Normandy was impossible, and therefore the magical
storm was lulled. The hills and valleys shone brilliantly in their white
attire of snow, and Folko used sometimes, with skates on his feet, to
draw his lady in a light sledge over the glittering frozen lakes and
streams. On the other hand, the bear-hunts of the lord of the castle and
his son took a still more desperate and to them joyous course.

About this time,--when Christmas was drawing near, and Sintram was
seeking to overpower his dread of the awful dreams by the most daring
expeditions,--about this time, Folko and Gabrielle stood together on
one of the terraces of the castle. The evening was mild; the snow-clad
fields were glowing in the red light of the setting sun; from below
there were heard men's voices singing songs of ancient heroic times,
while they worked in the armourer's forge. At last the songs died away,
the beating of hammers ceased, and, without the speakers being seen, or
there being any possibility of distinguishing them by their voices, the
following discourse arose:--

"Who is the bravest amongst all those whose race derives its origin from
our renowned land?"

"It is Folko of Montfaucon."

"Rightly said; but tell me, is there anything from which even this bold
baron draws back?"

"In truth there is one thing,--and we who have never left Norway face it
quite willingly and joyfully."

"And that is--?"

"A bear-hunt in winter, over trackless plains of snow, down frightful
ice-covered precipices."

"Truly thou answerest aright, my comrade. He who knows not how to fasten
our skates on his feet, how to turn in them to the right or left at a
moment's warning, he may be a valiant knight in other respects, but he
had better keep away from our hunting parties, and remain with his timid
wife in her apartments." At which the speakers were heard to laugh well
pleased, and then to betake themselves again to their armourer's work.

Folko stood long buried in thought. A glow beyond that of the evening
sky reddened his cheek. Gabrielle also remained silent, considering she
knew not what. At last she took courage, and embracing her beloved, she
said: "To-morrow thou wilt go forth to hunt the bear, wilt thou not? and
thou wilt bring the spoils of the chase to thy lady?"

The knight gave a joyful sign of assent; and the rest of the evening was
spent in dances and music.



CHAPTER 17



"See, my noble lord," said Sintram the next morning, when Folko had
expressed his wish of going out with him, "these skates of ours give
such wings to our course, that we go down the mountain-side swiftly as
the wind; and even in going up again we are too quick for any one to be
able to pursue us, and on the plains no horse can keep up with us; and
yet they can only be worn with safety by those who are well practised.
It seems as though some strange spirit dwelt in them, which is fearfully
dangerous to any that have not learnt the management of them in their
childhood.

Folko answered somewhat proudly: "Do you suppose that this is the first
time that I have been amongst your mountains? Years ago I have joined in
this sport, and, thank Heaven, there is no knightly exercise which does
not speedily become familiar to me."

Sintram did not venture to make any further objections, and still less
did old Biorn. They both felt relieved when they saw with what skill and
ease Folko buckled the skates on his feet, without suffering any one to
assist him. This day they hunted up the mountain in pursuit of a fierce
bear which had often before escaped from them. Before long it was
necessary that they should separate, and Sintram offered himself as
companion to Folko, who, touched by the humble manner of the youth, and
his devotion to him, forgot all that had latterly seemed mysterious
in the pale altered being before him, and agreed heartily. As now they
continued to climb higher and higher up the mountain, and saw from
many a giddy height the rocks and crags below them looking like a vast
expanse of sea suddenly turned into ice whilst tossed by a violent
tempest, the noble Montfaucon drew his breath more freely. He poured
forth war-songs and love-longs in the clear mountain air, and the
startled echoes repeated from rock to rock the lays of his Frankish
home. He sprang lightly from one precipice to another, using strongly
and safely his staff for support, and turning now to the right, now to
the left, as the fancy seized him; so that Sintram was fain to exchange
his former anxiety for a wondering admiration, and the hunters, whose
eyes had never been taken off the baron, burst forth with loud applause,
proclaiming far and wide fresh glory of their guest.

The good fortune which usually accompanied Folko's deeds of arms seemed
still unwilling to leave him. After a short search, he and Sintram
found distinct traces of the savage animal, and with beating hearts they
followed the track so swiftly that even a winged enemy would have been
unable to escape from them. But the creature whom they sought did not
attempt a flight--he lay sulkily in a cavern near the top of a steep
precipitous rock, infuriated by the shouts of the hunters, and only
waiting in his lazy fury for some one to be bold enough to climb up to
his retreat, that he might tear him to pieces. Folko and Sintram had now
reached the foot of this rock, the rest of the hunters being dispersed
over the far-extending plain. The track led the two companions up the
rock, and they set about climbing on the opposite sides of it, that
they might be the more sure of not missing their prey. Folko reached the
lonely topmost point first, and cast his eyes around. A wide, boundless
tract of country, covered with untrodden snow, was spread before him,
melting in the distance into the lowering clouds of the gloomy evening
sky. He almost thought that he must have missed the traces of the
fearful beast; when close beside him from a cleft in the rock issued a
long growl, and a huge black bear appeared on the snow, standing on its
hind legs, and with glaring eyes it advanced towards the baron. Sintram
the while was struggling in vain to make his way up the rock against the
masses of snow continually slipping down.

Joyful at a combat so long untried as almost to be new, Folko of
Montfaucon levelled his hunting spear, and awaited the attack of the
wild beast. He suffered it to approach so near that its fearful claws
were almost upon him; then he made a thrust, and the spear-head was
buried deep in the bear's breast. But the furious beast still pressed on
with a fierce growl, kept up on its hind legs by the cross-iron of the
spear, and the knight was forced to plant his feet deep in the earth to
resist the savage assault; and ever close before him the grim and bloody
face of the bear, and close in his ear its deep savage growl, wrung
forth partly by the agony of death, partly by thirst for blood. At
length the bear's resistance grew weaker, and the dark blood streamed
freely upon the snow; he tottered; and one powerful thrust hurled him
backwards over the edge of the precipice. At the same instant Sintram
stood by the Baron of Montfaucon. Folko said, drawing a deep breath:
"But I have not yet the prize in my hands, and have it I must, since
fortune has given me a claim to it. Look, one of my skates seems to be
out of order. Thinkest thou, Sintram, that it holds enough to slide down
to the foot of the precipice?"

"Let me go instead," said Sintram. "I will bring you the head and the
claws of the bear."

"A true knight," replied Folko, with some displeasure, "never does a
knightly deed by halves. What I ask is, whether my skate will still
hold?"

As Sintram bent down to look, and was on the point of saying "No!" he
suddenly heard a voice close to him, saying, "Why, yes, to be sure;
there is no doubt about it."

Folko thought that Sintram had spoken, and slid down with the swiftness
of an arrow, whilst his companion looked up in great surprise. The hated
form of the little Master met his eyes. As he was going to address him
with angry words, he heard the sound of the baron's fearful fall, and he
stood still in silent horror. There was a breathless silence also in the
abyss below.

"Now, why dost thou delay?" said the little Master, after a pause. "He
is dashed to pieces. Go back to the castle, and take the fair Helen to
thyself."

Sintram shuddered. Then his hateful companion began to praise
Gabrielle's charms in so glowing, deceiving words, that the heart of the
youth swelled with emotions he had never before known. He only thought
of him who was now lying at the foot of the rock as of an obstacle
removed between him and heaven: he turned towards the castle.

But a cry was heard below: "Help! help! my comrade! I am yet alive, but
I am sorely wounded."

Sintram's will was changed, and he called to the baron, "I am coming."

But the little Master said, "Nothing can be done to help Duke Menelaus;
and the fair Helen knows it already. She is only waiting for knight
Paris to comfort her." And with detestable craft he wove in that tale
with what was actually happening, bringing in the most highly wrought
praises of the lovely Gabrielle; and alas! the dazzled youth yielded to
him, and fled! Again he heard far off the baron's voice calling to him,
"Knight Sintram, knight Sintram, thou on whom I bestowed the holy order,
haste to me and help me! The she-bear and her whelps will be upon me,
and I cannot use my right arm! Knight Sintram, knight Sintram, haste to
help me!"

His cries were overpowered by the furious speed with which the two
were carried along on their skates, and by the evil words of the little
Master, who was mocking at the late proud bearing of Duke Menelaus
towards the poor Sintram. At last he shouted, "Good luck to you,
she-bear! good luck to your whelps! There is a glorious meal for you!
Now you will feed upon the fear of Heathendom, him at whose name the
Moorish brides weep, the mighty Baron of Montfaucon. Never again, O
dainty knight, will you shout at the head of your troops, 'Mountjoy St.
Denys!'" But scarce had this holy name passed the lips of the little
Master, than he set up a howl of anguish, writhing himself with horrible
contortions, and wringing his hands, and ended by disappearing in a
storm of snow which then arose.

Sintram planted his staff firmly in the ground, and stopped. How
strangely did the wide expanse of snow, the distant mountains rising
above it, and the dark green fir-woods--how strangely did they all look
at him in cold reproachful silence! He felt as if he must sink under the
weight of his sorrow and his guilt. The bell of a distant hermitage came
floating sadly over the plain. With a burst of tears he exclaimed, as
the darkness grew thicker round him, "My mother! my mother! I had once
a beloved tender mother, and she said I was a good child!" A ray of
comfort came to him as if brought on an angel's wing; perhaps Montfaucon
was not yet dead! and he flew like lightning along the path, back to
the steep rock. When he got to the fearful place, he stooped and looked
anxiously down the precipice. The moon, just risen in full majesty,
helped him. The Knight of Montfaucon, pale and bleeding, was half
kneeling against the rock; his right arm, crushed in his fall, hung
powerless at his side; it was plain that he could not draw his good
sword out of the scabbard. But nevertheless he was keeping the bear and
her young ones at bay by his bold threatening looks, so that they only
crept round him, growling angrily; every moment ready for a fierce
attack, but as often driven back affrighted at the majestic air by which
he conquered even when defenceless.

"Oh! what a hero would there have perished!" groaned Sintram, "and
through whose guilt?" In an instant his spear flew with so true an
aim that the bear fell weltering in her blood; the young ones ran away
howling.

The baron looked up with surprise. His countenance beamed as the light
of the moon fell upon it, grave and stern, yet mild, like some angelic
vision. "Come down!" he beckoned; and Sintram slid down the side of the
precipice, full of anxious haste. He was going to attend to the wounded
man, but Folko said, "First cut off the head and claws of the bear
which I slew. I promised to bring the spoils of the chase to my lovely
Gabrielle. Then come to me, and bind up my wounds. My right arm is
broken." Sintram obeyed the baron's commands. When the tokens of victory
had been secured, and the broken arm bound up, Folko desired the youth
to help him back to the castle.

"O Heavens!" said Sintram in a low voice, "if I dared to look in your
face! or only knew how to come near you!"

"Thou wert indeed going on in an evil course," said Montfaucon, gravely;
"but how could we, any of us, stand before God, did not repentance help
us? At any rate, thou hast now saved my life, and let that thought cheer
thy heart."

The youth with tenderness and strength supported the baron's left arm,
and they both went their way silently in the moonlight.



CHAPTER 18



Sounds of wailing were heard from the castle as they approached; the
chapel was solemnly lighted up; within it knelt Gabrielle, lamenting for
the death of the Knight of Montfaucon.

But how quickly was all changed, when the noble baron, pale indeed, and
bleeding, yet having escaped all mortal danger, stood smiling at the
entrance of the holy building, and said, in a low, gentle voice, "Look
up, Gabrielle, and be not affrighted; for, by the honour of my race, thy
knight still lives." Oh! with what joy did Gabrielle's eyes sparkle, as
she turned to her knight, and then raised them again to heaven, still
streaming, but from the deep source of thankful joy! With the help of
two pages, Folko knelt down beside her, and they both sanctified their
happiness with a silent prayer.

When they left the chapel, the wounded knight being tenderly supported
by his lady, Sintram was standing without in the darkness, himself as
gloomy as the night, and, like a bird of the night, shunning the sight
of men. Yet he came trembling forward into the torch-light, laid the
bear's head and claws at the feet of Gabrielle, and said, "The noble
Folko of Montfaucon presents the spoils of to-day's chase to his lady."

The Norwegians burst forth with shouts of joyful surprise at the
stranger knight, who in the very first hunting expedition had slain the
most fearful and dangerous beast of their mountains.

Then Folko looked around with a smile as he said, "And now none of you
must jeer at me, if I stay at home for a short time with my timid wife."

Those who the day before had talked together in the armourer's forge
came out from the crowd, and bowing low, they replied, "Noble baron,
who could have thought that there was no knightly exercise in the whole
world in the which you would not show yourself far above all other men?"

"The pupil of old Sir Hugh may be somewhat trusted," answered Folko
kindly. "But now, you bold northern warriors, bestow some praises also
on my deliverer, who saved me from the claws of the she-bear, when I was
leaning against the rock wounded by my fall."

He pointed to Sintram, and the general shout was again raised; and old
Rolf, with tears of joy in his eyes, bent his head over his foster-son's
hand. But Sintram drew back shuddering.

"Did you but know," said he, "whom you see before you, all your spears
would be aimed at my heart; and perhaps that would be the best thing for
me. But I spare the honour of my father and of his race, and for this
time I will not confess. Only this much must you know, noble warriors--"

"Young man," interrupted Folko with a reproving look, "already again
so wild and fierce? I desire that thou wilt hold thy peace about thy
dreaming fancies."

Sintram was silenced for a moment; but hardly had Folko begun smilingly
to move towards the steps of the castle, than he cried out, "Oh, no, no,
noble wounded knight, stay yet awhile; I will serve thee in everything
that thy heart can desire; but herein I cannot serve thee. Brave
warriors, you must and shall know so much as this; I am no longer worthy
to live under the same roof with the noble Baron of Montfaucon and his
angelic wife Gabrielle. And you, my aged father, good-night; long not
for me. I intend to live in the stone fortress on the Rocks of the Moon,
till a change of some kind come over me."

There was that in his way of speaking against which no one dared to set
himself, not even Folko.

The wild Biorn bowed his head humbly, and said, "Do according to thy
pleasure, my poor son; for I fear that thou art right."

Then Sintram walked solemnly and silently through the castle-gate,
followed by the good Rolf. Gabrielle led her exhausted lord up to their
apartments.



CHAPTER 19



That was a mournful journey on which the youth and his aged
foster-father went towards the Rocks of the Moon, through the wild
tangled paths of the snow-clad valleys. Rolf from time to time sang
some verses of hymns, in which comfort and peace were promised to the
penitent sinner, and Sintram thanked him for them with looks of grateful
sadness. Neither of them spoke a word else.

At length, when the dawn of day was approaching, Sintram broke silence
by saying, "Who are those two sitting yonder by the frozen stream--a
tall man and a little one? Their own wild hearts must have driven them
also forth into the wilderness. Rolf, dost thou know them? The sight of
them makes me shudder."

"Sir," answered the old man, "your disturbed mind deceives you. There
stands a lofty fir-tree, and the old weather-beaten stump of an oak,
half-covered with snow, which gives them a somewhat strange appearance.
There are no men sitting yonder."

"But, Rolf, look there! look again carefully! Now they move, they
whisper together."

"Sir, the morning breeze moves the branches, and whistles in the sharp
pine-leaves and in the yellow oak-leaves, and rustles the crisp snow."

"Rolf, now they are both coming towards us. Now they are standing before
us, quite close."

"Sir, it is we who get nearer to them as we walk on, and the setting
moon throws such long giant-like shadows over the plain."

"Good-evening!" said a hollow voice; and Sintram knew it was the crazy
pilgrim, near to whom stood the malignant little Master, looking more
hideous than ever.

"You are right, sir knight," whispered Rolf, as he drew back behind
Sintram, and made the Sign of the Cross on his breast and his forehead.

The bewildered youth, however, advanced towards the two figures, and
said, "You have always taken wonderful pleasure in being my companions.
What do you expect will come of it? And do you choose to go now with me
to the stone fortress? There I will tend thee, poor pale pilgrim; and as
to thee, frightful Master, most evil dwarf, I will make thee shorter by
the head, to reward thee for thy deeds yesterday."

"That would be a fine thing," sneered the little Master; "and perhaps
thou imaginest that thou wouldst be doing a great service to the whole
world? And, indeed, who knows? Something might be gained by it! Only,
poor wretch, thou canst not do it."

The pilgrim meantime was waving his pale head to and fro thoughtfully,
saying, "I believe truly that thou wouldst willingly have me, and I
would go to thee willingly, but I may not yet. Have patience awhile;
thou wilt yet surely see me come, but at a distant time; and first we
must again visit thy father together, and then also thou wilt learn to
call me by my right name, my poor friend."

"Beware of disappointing me again!" said the little Master to the
pilgrim in a threatening voice; but he, pointing with his long,
shrivelled hand towards the sun, which was just now rising, said, "Stop
either that sun or me, if thou canst!"

Then the first rays fell on the snow, and the little Master ran,
muttering, down a precipice; but the pilgrim walked on in the bright
beams, calmly and with great solemnity, towards a neighbouring castle on
the mountain. It was not long before its chapel-bell was heard tolling
for the dead.

"For Heaven's sake," whispered the good Rolf to his knight--"for
Heaven's sake, Sir Sintram, what kind of companions have you here? One
of them cannot bear the light of God's blessed sun, and the other has
no sooner set foot in a dwelling than tidings of death wail after his
track. Could he have been a murderer?"

"I do not think that," said Sintram. "He seemed to me the best of the
two. But it is a strange wilfulness of his not to come with me. Did I
not invite him kindly? I believe that he can sing well, and he should
have sung to me some gentle lullaby. Since my mother has lived in a
cloister, no one sings lullabies to me any more."

At this tender recollection his eyes were bedewed with tears. But he did
not himself know what he had said besides, for there was wildness and
confusion in his spirit. They arrived at the Rocks of the Moon, and
mounted up to the stone fortress. The castellan, an old, gloomy man,
the more devoted to the young knight from his dark melancholy and wild
deeds, hastened to lower the drawbridge. Greetings were exchanged in
silence, and in silence did Sintram enter, and those joyless gates
closed with a crash behind the future recluse.



CHAPTER 20



Yes truly, a recluse, or at least something like it, did poor Sintram
now become! For towards the time of the approaching Christmas festival
his fearful dreams came over him, and seized him so fiercely, that all
the esquires and servants fled with shrieks out of the castle, and would
never venture back again. No one remained with him except Rolf and the
old castellan. After a while, indeed, Sintram became calm, but he went
about looking so pallid and still that he might have been taken for a
wandering corpse. No comforting of the good Rolf, no devout soothing
lays, were of any avail; and the castellan, with his fierce, scarred
features, his head almost entirely bald from a huge sword-cut, his
stubborn silence, seemed like a yet darker shadow of the miserable
knight. Rolf often thought of going to summon the holy chaplain of
Drontheim; but how could he have left his lord alone with the gloomy
castellan, a man who at all times raised in him a secret horror? Biorn
had long had this wild strange warrior in his service, and honoured him
on account of his unshaken fidelity and his fearless courage, though
neither the knight nor any one else knew whence the castellan came, nor,
indeed, exactly who he was. Very few people knew by what name to
call him; but that was the more needless, since he never entered into
discourse with any one. He was the castellan of the stone fortress on
the Rocks of the Moon, and nothing more.

Rolf committed his deep heartfelt cares to the merciful God, trusting
that he would soon come to his aid; and the merciful God did not fail
him. For on Christmas eve the bell at the drawbridge sounded, and Rolf,
looking over the battlements, saw the chaplain of Drontheim standing
there, with a companion indeed that surprised him,--for close beside him
appeared the crazy pilgrim, and the dead men's bones on his dark mantle
shone very strangely in the glimmering starlight: but the sight of the
chaplain filled the good Rolf too full of joy to leave room for any
doubt in his mind; for, thought he, whoever comes with him cannot but be
welcome! And so he let them both in with respectful haste, and ushered
them up to the hall, where Sintram, pale and with a fixed look, was
sitting under the light of one flickering lamp. Rolf was obliged to
support and assist the crazy pilgrim up the stairs, for he was quite
benumbed with cold.

"I bring you a greeting from your mother," said the chaplain as he
came in; and immediately a sweet smile passed over the young knight's
countenance, and its deadly pallidness gave place to a bright soft glow.

"O Heaven!" murmured he, "does then my mother yet live, and does she
care to know anything about me?"

"She is endowed with a wonderful presentiment of the future," replied
the chaplain; "and all that you ought either to do or to leave undone
is faithfully mirrored in various ways in her mind, during a half-waking
trance. Now she knows of your deep sorrow, and she sends me, the
father-confessor of her convent, to comfort you, but at the same time to
warn you; for, as she affirms, and as I am also inclined to think, many
strange and heavy trials lie before you."

Sintram bowed himself towards the chaplain with his arms crossed
over his breast, and said, with a gentle smile, "Much have I been
favoured--more, a thousand times more, than I could have dared to hope
in my best hours--by this greeting from my mother, and your visit,
reverend sir; and all after falling more fearfully low than I had ever
fallen before. The mercy of the Lord is great; and how heavy soever may
be the weight and punishment which He may send, I trust, with His grace,
to be able to bear it."

Just then the door opened, and the castellan came in with a torch in his
hand, the red glare of which made his face look the colour of blood. He
cast a terrified glance at the crazy pilgrim, who had just sunk back
in a swoon, and was supported on his seat and tended by Rolf; then
he stared with astonishment at the chaplain, and at last murmured,
"A strange meeting! I believe that the hour for confession and
reconciliation is now arrived."

"I believe so too," replied the priest, who had heard his low whisper;
"this seems to be truly a day rich in grace and peace. That poor
man yonder, whom I found half-frozen by the way, would make a full
confession to me at once, before he followed me to a place of shelter.
Do as he has done, my dark-browed warrior, and delay not your good
purpose for one instant."

Thereupon he left the room with the willing castellan, but he turned
back to say, "Sir Knight and your esquire! take good care the while of
my sick charge."

Sintram and Rolf did according to the chaplain's desire: and when at
length their cordials made the pilgrim open his eyes once again, the
young knight said to him, with a friendly smile, "Seest thou? thou art
come to visit me after all. Why didst thou refuse me when, a few nights
ago, I asked thee so earnestly to come? Perhaps I may have spoken wildly
and hastily. Did that scare thee away?"

A sudden expression of fear came over the pilgrim's countenance; but
soon he again looked up at Sintram with an air of gentle humility,
saying, "O my dear, dear lord, I am most entirely devoted to you--only
never speak to me of former passages between you and me. I am terrified
whenever you do it. For, my lord, either I am mad and have forgotten all
that is past, or that Being has met you in the wood, whom I look upon as
my very powerful twin brother."

Sintram laid his hand gently on the pilgrim's mouth, as he answered,
"Say nothing more about that matter: I most willingly promise to be
silent."

Neither he nor old Rolf could understand what appeared to them so awful
in the whole matter; but both shuddered.

After a short pause the pilgrim said, "I would rather sing you a song--a
soft, comforting song. Have you not a lute here?"

Rolf fetched one; and the pilgrim, half-raising himself on the couch,
sang the following words:


                  "When death is coming near,
                   When thy heart shrinks in fear
                      And thy limbs fail,
                   Then raise thy hands and pray
                   To Him who smooths thy way
                      Through the dark vale.

                   Seest thou the eastern dawn,
                   Hearst thou in the red morn
                      The angel's song?
                   Oh, lift thy drooping head,
                   Thou who in gloom and dread
                      Hast lain so long.

                   Death comes to set thee free;
                   Oh, meet him cheerily
                      As thy true friend,
                   And all thy fears shall cease,
                   And in eternal peace
                      Thy penance end."


"Amen," said Sintram and Rolf, folding their hands; and whilst the last
chords of the lute still resounded, the chaplain and the castellan came
slowly and gently into the room. "I bring a precious Christmas gift,"
said the priest. "After many sad years, hope of reconciliation and peace
of conscience are returning to a noble, disturbed mind. This concerns
thee, beloved pilgrim; and do thou, my Sintram, with a joyful trust in
God, take encouragement and example from it."

"More than twenty years ago," began the castellan, at a sign from the
chaplain--"more than twenty years ago I was a bold shepherd, driving
my flock up the mountains. A young knight followed me, whom they called
Weigand the Slender. He wanted to buy of me my favourite little lamb for
his fair bride, and offered me much red gold for it. I sturdily refused.
Over-bold youth boiled up in us both. A stroke of his sword hurled me
senseless down the precipice.

"Not killed?" asked the pilgrim in a scarce audible voice.

"I am no ghost," replied the castellan, somewhat morosely; and then,
after an earnest look from the priest, he continued, more humbly: "I
recovered slowly and in solitude, with the help of remedies which were
easily found by me, a shepherd, in our productive valleys. When I came
back into the world, no man knew me, with my scarred face, and my now
bald head. I heard a report going through the country, that on account
of this deed of his, Sir Weigand the Slender had been rejected by his
fair betrothed Verena, and how he had pined away, and she had wished
to retire into a convent, but her father had persuaded her to marry the
great knight Biorn. Then there came a fearful thirst for vengeance
into my heart, and I disowned my name, and my kindred, and my home, and
entered the service of the mighty Biorn, as a strange wild man, in order
that Weigand the Slender should always remain a murderer, and that I
might feed on his anguish. So have I fed upon it for all these long
years; I have fed frightfully upon his self-imposed banishment, upon
his cheerless return home, upon his madness. But to-day--" and hot tears
gushed from his eyes--"but to-day God has broken the hardness of my
heart; and, dear Sir Weigand, look upon yourself no more as a murderer,
and say that you will forgive me, and pray for him who has done you so
fearful an injury, and--"

Sobs choked his words. He fell at the feet of the pilgrim, who with
tears of joy pressed him to his heart, in token of forgiveness.



CHAPTER 21



The joy of this hour passed from its first overpowering brightness to
the calm, thoughtful aspect of daily life; and Weigand, now restored
to health, laid aside the mantle with dead men's bones, saying: "I had
chosen for my penance to carry these fearful remains about with me, with
the thought that some of them might have belonged to him whom I have
murdered. Therefore I sought for them round about, in the deep beds of
the mountain-torrents, and in the high nests of the eagles and vultures.
And while I was searching, I sometimes--could it have been only an
illusion?--seemed to meet a being who was very like myself, but far, far
more powerful, and yet still paler and more haggard."

An imploring look from Sintram stopped the flow of his words. With a
gentle smile, Weigand bowed towards him, and said: "You know now all the
deep, unutterably deep, sorrow which preyed upon me. My fear of you, and
my yearning love for you, are no longer an enigma to your kind heart.
For, dear youth, though you may be like your fearful father, you have
also the kind, gentle heart of your mother; and its reflection brightens
your pallid, stern features, like the glow of a morning sky, which
lights up ice-covered mountains and snowy valleys with the soft
radiance of joy. But, alas! how long you have lived alone amidst your
fellow-creatures! and how long since you have seen your mother, my
dearly-loved Sintram!"

"I feel, too, as though a spring were gushing up in the barren
wilderness," replied the youth; "and I should perchance be altogether
restored, could I but keep you long with me, and weep with you, dear
lord. But I have that within me which says that you will very soon be
taken from me."

"I believe, indeed," said the pilgrim, "that my late song was very
nearly my last, and that it contained a prediction full soon to be
accomplished in me. But, as the soul of man is always like the thirsty
ground, the more blessings God has bestowed on us, the more earnestly
do we look out for new ones; so would I crave for one more before, as I
hope, my blessed end. Yet, indeed, it cannot be granted me," added he,
with a faltering voice; "for I feel myself too utterly unworthy of so
high a gift."

"But it will be granted!" said the chaplain, joyfully. "'He that
humbleth himself shall be exalted;' and I fear not to take one
purified from murder to receive a farewell from the holy and forgiving
countenance of Verena."

The pilgrim stretched both his hands up towards heaven and an unspoken
thanksgiving poured from his beaming eyes, and brightened the smile that
played on his lips.

Sintram looked sorrowfully on the ground, and sighed gently to himself:
"Alas! who would dare accompany?"

"My poor, good Sintram," said the chaplain, in a tone of the softest
kindness, "I understand thee well; but the time is not yet come. The
powers of evil will again raise up their wrathful heads within thee,
and Verena must check both her own and thy longing desires, until all is
pure in thy spirit as in hers. Comfort thyself with the thought that
God looks mercifully upon thee, and that the joy so earnestly sought for
will come--if not here, most assuredly beyond the grave."

But the pilgrim, as though awaking out of a trance, rose mightily from
his seat, and said: "Do you please to come forth with me, reverend
chaplain? Before the sun appears in the heavens, we could reach the
convent-gates, and I should not be far from heaven."

In vain did the chaplain and Rolf remind him of his weakness: he smiled,
and said that there could be no words about it; and he girded himself,
and tuned the lute which he had asked leave to take with him. His
decided manner overcame all opposition, almost without words; and the
chaplain had already prepared himself for the journey, when the pilgrim
looked with much emotion at Sintram, who, oppressed with a strange
weariness, had sunk, half-asleep, on a couch, and said: "Wait a moment.
I know that he wants me to give him a soft lullaby." The pleased smile
of the youth seemed to say, Yes; and the pilgrim, touching the strings
with a light hand, sang these words:


                  "Sleep peacefully, dear boy;
                     Thy mother sends the song
                   That whispers round thy couch,
                     To lull thee all night long.
                   In silence and afar
                     For thee she ever prays,
                   And longs once more in fondness
                     Upon thy face to gaze.

                   And when thy waking cometh,
                     Then in thy every deed,
                   In all that may betide thee,
                     Unto her words give heed.
                   Oh, listen for her voice,
                     If it be yea or nay;
                   And though temptation meet thee,
                     Thou shalt not miss the way.

                   If thou canst listen rightly,
                     And nobly onward go,
                   Then pure and gentle breezes
                     Around thy cheek shall blow.
                   Then on thy peaceful journey
                     Her blessing thou shalt feel,
                   And though from thee divided,
                     Her presence o'er thee steal.

                   O safest, sweetest comfort!
                     O blest and living light!
                   That, strong in Heaven's power,
                     All terrors put to flight!
                   Rest quietly, sweet child,
                     And may the gentle numbers
                   Thy mother sends to thee
                     Waft peace unto thy slumbers."


Sintram fell into a deep sleep, smiling, and breathing softly. Rolf and
the castellan remained by his bed, whilst the two travellers pursued
their way in the quiet starlight.



CHAPTER 22



The dawn had almost appeared, when Rolf, who had been asleep, was
awakened by low singing; and as he looked round, he perceived, with
surprise, that the sounds came from the lips of the castellan, who said,
as if in explanation, "So does Sir Weigand sing at the convent-gates,
and they are kindly opened to him." Upon which, old Rolf fell asleep
again, uncertain whether what had passed had been a dream or a reality.
After a while the bright sunshine awoke him again; and when he rose up,
he saw the countenance of the castellan wonderfully illuminated by the
red morning rays; and altogether those features, once so fearful, were
shining with a soft, nay almost child-like mildness. The mysterious man
seemed to be the while listening to the motionless air, as if he were
hearing a most pleasant discourse or lofty music; and as Rolf was about
to speak, he made him a sign of entreaty to remain quiet, and continued
in his eager listening attitude.

At length he sank slowly and contentedly back in his seat, whispering,
"God be praised! She has granted his last prayer; he will be laid in the
burial-ground of the convent, and now he has forgiven me in the depths
of his heart. I can assure you that he finds a peaceful end."

Rolf did not dare ask a question, or awake his lord; he felt as if one
already departed had spoken to him.

The castellan long remained still, always smiling brightly. At last
he raised himself a little, again listened, and said, "It is over. The
sound of the bells is very sweet. We have overcome. Oh, how soft and
easy does the good God make it to us!" And so it came to pass. He
stretched himself back as if weary, and his soul was freed from his
care-worn body.

Rolf now gently awoke his young knight, and pointed to the smiling dead.
And Sintram smiled too; he and his good esquire fell on their knees, and
prayed to God for the departed spirit. Then they rose up, and bore the
cold body to the vaulted hall, and watched by it with holy candles until
the return of the chaplain. That the pilgrim would not come back again,
they very well knew.

Accordingly towards mid-day the chaplain returned alone. He could
scarcely do more than confirm what was already known to them. He only
added a comforting and hopeful greeting from Sintram's mother to her
son, and told that the blissful Weigand had fallen asleep like a tired
child, whilst Verena, with calm tenderness, held a crucifix before him.


             "And in eternal peace our penance end!"


sang Sintram, gently to himself: and they prepared a last resting place
for the now peaceful castellan, and laid him therein with all the due
solemn rites.

The chaplain was obliged soon afterwards to depart; but bidding Sintram
farewell, he again said kindly to him, "Thy dear mother assuredly knows
how gentle and calm and good thou art now!"



CHAPTER 23



In the castle of Sir Biorn of the Fiery Eyes, Christmas-eve had not
passed so brightly and happily; but yet, there too all had gone visibly
according to God's will.

Folko, at the entreaty of the lord of the castle, had allowed Gabrielle
to support him into the hall; and the three now sat at the round stone
table, whereon a sumptuous meal was laid. On either side there were
long tables, at which sat the retainers of both knights in full armour,
according to the custom of the North. Torches and lamps lighted the
lofty hall with an almost dazzling brightness.

Midnight had now begun its solemn reign, and Gabrielle softly reminded
her wounded knight to withdraw. Biorn heard her, and said: "You are
right, fair lady; our knight needs rest. Only let us first keep up one
more old honourable custom."

And at his sign four attendants brought in with pomp a great boar's
head, which looked as if cut out of solid gold, and placed it in the
middle of the stone table. Biorn's retainers rose with reverence, and
took off their helmets; Biorn himself did the same.

"What means this?" asked Folko very gravely.

"What thy forefathers and mine have done on every Yule feast," answered
Biorn. "We are going to make vows on the boar's head, and then pass the
goblet round to their fulfilment."

"We no longer keep what our ancestors called the Yule feast," said
Folko; "we are good Christians, and we keep holy Christmas-tide."

"To do the one, and not to leave the other undone," answered Biorn. "I
hold my ancestors too dear to forget their knightly customs. Those who
think otherwise may act according to their wisdom, but that shall not
hinder me. I swear by the golden boar's head--" And he stretched out his
hand, to lay it solemnly upon it.

But Folko called out, "In the name of our holy Saviour, forbear. Where I
am, and still have breath and will, none shall celebrate undisturbed the
rites of the wild heathens."

Biorn of the Fiery Eyes glared angrily at him. The men of the two barons
separated from each other, with a hollow sound of rattling armour, and
ranged themselves in two bodies on either side of the hall, each behind
its leader. Already here and there helmets were fastened and visors
closed.

"Bethink thee yet what thou art doing," said Biorn. "I was about to vow
an eternal union with the house of Montfaucon, nay, even to bind myself
to do it grateful homage; but if thou disturb me in the customs which
have come to me from my forefathers, look to thy safety and the safety
of all that is dear to thee. My wrath no longer knows any bounds."

Folko made a sign to the pale Gabrielle to retire behind his followers,
saying to her, "Be of good cheer, my noble wife, weaker Christians have
braved, for the sake of God and of His holy Church, greater dangers than
now seem to threaten us. Believe me, the Lord of Montfaucon is not so
easily ensnared."

Gabrielle obeyed, something comforted by Folko's fearless smile, but
this smile inflamed yet more the fury of Biorn. He again stretched out
his hand towards the boar's head, as if about to make some dreadful vow,
when Folko snatched a gauntlet of Biorn's off the table, with which he,
with his unwounded left arm, struck so powerful a blow on the gilt idol,
that it fell crashing to the ground, shivered to pieces. Biorn and his
followers stood as if turned to stone. But soon swords were grasped
by armed hands, shields were taken down from the walls, and an angry,
threatening murmur sounded through the hall.

At a sign from Folko, a battle-axe was brought him by one of his
faithful retainers; he swung it high in air with his powerful left hand,
and stood looking like an avenging angel as he spoke these words through
the tumult with awful calmness: "What seek ye, O deluded Northman? What
wouldst thou, sinful lord? Ye are indeed become heathens; and I hope
to show you, by my readiness for battle, that it is not in my right arm
alone that God has put strength for victory. But if ye can yet hear,
listen to my words. Biorn, on this same accursed, and now, by God's
help, shivered boar's head, thou didst lay thy hand when thou didst
swear to sacrifice any inhabitants of the German towns that should fall
into thy power. And Gotthard Lenz came, and Rudlieb came, driven on
these shores by the storm. What didst thou then do, O savage Biorn? What
did ye do at his bidding, ye who were keeping the Yule feast with him?
Try your fortune on me. The Lord will be with me, as He was with
those holy men. To arms, and--" (he turned to his warriors) "let our
battle-cry be Gotthard and Rudlieb!"

Then Biorn let drop his drawn sword, then his followers paused, and none
among the Norwegians dared lift his eyes from the ground. By degrees,
they one by one began to disappear from the hall; and at last Biorn
stood quite alone opposite to the baron and his followers. He seemed
hardly aware that he had been deserted, but he fell on his knees,
stretched out his shining sword, pointed to the broken boar's head, and
said, "Do with me as you have done with that; I deserve no better. I ask
but one favour, only one; do not disgrace me, noble baron, by seeking
shelter in another castle of Norway."

"I fear you not," answered Folko, after some thought; "and, as far as
may be, I freely forgive you." Then he drew the sign of the cross over
the wild form of Biorn, and left the hall with Gabrielle. The retainers
of the house of Montfaucon followed him proudly and silently.

The hard spirit of the fierce lord of the castle was now quite
broken, and he watched with increased humility every look of Folko and
Gabrielle. But they withdrew more and more into the happy solitude of
their own apartments, where they enjoyed, in the midst of the sharp
winter, a bright spring-tide of happiness. The wounded condition
of Folko did not hinder the evening delights of songs and music and
poetry--but rather a new charm was added to them when the tall, handsome
knight leant on the arm of his delicate lady, and they thus, changing as
it were their deportment and duties, walked slowly through the torch-lit
halls, scattering their kindly greetings like flowers among the crowds
of men and women.

All this time little or nothing was heard of poor Sintram. The last wild
outbreak of his father had increased the terror with which Gabrielle
remembered the self-accusations of the youth; and the more resolutely
Folko kept silence, the more did she bode some dreadful mystery. Indeed,
a secret shudder came over the knight when he thought on the pale,
dark-haired youth. Sintram's repentance had bordered on settled despair;
no one knew even what he was doing in the fortress of evil report on the
Rocks of the Moon. Strange rumours were brought by the retainers who
had fled from it, that the evil spirit had obtained complete power over
Sintram, that no man could stay with him, and that the fidelity of the
dark mysterious castellan had cost him his life.

Folko could hardly drive away the fearful suspicion that the lonely
young knight was become a wicked magician.

And perhaps, indeed, evil spirits did flit about the banished Sintram,
but it was without his calling them up. In his dreams he often saw the
wicked enchantress Venus, in her golden chariot drawn by winged cats,
pass over the battlements of the stone fortress, and heard her say,
mocking him, "Foolish Sintram, foolish Sintram! hadst thou but obeyed
the little Master! Thou wouldst now be in Helen's arms, and the Rocks of
the Moon would be called the Rocks of Love, and the stone fortress would
be the garden of roses. Thou wouldst have lost thy pale face and dark
hair,--for thou art only enchanted, dear youth,--and thine eyes would
have beamed more softly, and thy cheeks bloomed more freshly, and thy
hair would have been more golden than was that of Prince Paris when men
wondered at his beauty. Oh, how Helen would have loved thee!" Then she
showed him in a mirror, how, as a marvellously beautiful knight, he
knelt before Gabrielle, who sank into his arms blushing as the morning.
When he awoke from such dreams, he would seize eagerly the sword and
scarf given him by his lady,--as a shipwrecked man seizes the plank
which is to save him; and while the hot tears fell on them, he would
murmur to himself, "There was, indeed, one hour in my sad life when I
was worthy and happy."

Once he sprang up at midnight after one of these dreams, but this time
with more thrilling horror; for it had seemed to him that the features
of the enchantress Venus had changed towards the end of her speech, as
she looked down upon him with marvellous scorn, and she appeared to him
as the hideous little Master. The youth had no better means of calming
his distracted mind than to throw the sword and scarf of Gabrielle over
his shoulders, and to hasten forth under the solemn starry canopy of the
wintry sky. He walked in deep thought backwards and forwards under the
leafless oaks and the snow-laden firs which grew on the high ramparts.

Then he heard a sorrowful cry of distress sound from the moat; it was
as if some one were attempting to sing, but was stopped by inward grief.
Sintram exclaimed, "Who's there?" and all was still. When he was silent,
and again began his walk, the frightful groanings and moanings were
heard afresh, as if they came from a dying person. Sintram overcame the
horror which seemed to hold him back, and began in silence to climb down
into the deep dry moat which was cut in the rock. He was soon so low
down that he could no longer see the stars shining; beneath him moved
a shrouded form; and sliding with involuntary haste down the steep
descent, he stood near the groaning figure; it ceased its lamentations,
and began to laugh like a maniac from beneath its long, folded, female
garments.

"Oh ho, my comrade! oh ho, my comrade! wert thou going a little too
fast? Well, well, it is all right; and see now, thou standest no higher
than I, my pious, valiant youth! Take it patiently,--take it patiently!"

"What dost thou want with me? Why dost thou laugh? why dost thou weep?"
asked Sintram impatiently.

"I might ask thee the same questions," answered the dark figure, "and
thou wouldst be less able to answer me than I to answer thee. Why dost
thou laugh? why dost thou weep?--Poor creature! But I will show thee a
remarkable thing in thy fortress, of which thou knowest nothing. Give
heed!"

And the shrouded figure began to scratch and scrape at the stones till
a little iron door opened, and showed a long passage which led into the
deep darkness.

"Wilt thou come with me?" whispered the strange being; "it is the
shortest way to thy father's castle. In half-an-hour we shall come out
of this passage, and we shall be in thy beauteous lady's apartment. Duke
Menelaus shall lie in a magic sleep,--leave that to me,--and then thou
wilt take the slight, delicate form in thine arms, and bring her to the
Rocks of the Moon; so thou wilt win back all that seemed lost by thy
former wavering."

Sintram trembled visibly, fearfully shaken to and fro by the fever of
passion and the stings of conscience. But at last, pressing the sword
and scarf to his heart, he cried out, "Oh! that fairest, most glorious
hour of my life! If I lose all other joys, I will hold fast that
brightest hour!"

"A bright, glorious hour!" said the figure from under its veil, like
an evil echo. "Dost thou know whom thou then conqueredst? A good old
friend, who only showed himself so sturdy to give thee the glory of
overcoming him. Wilt thou convince thyself? Wilt thou look?"

The dark garments of the little figure flew open, and the dwarf warrior
in strange armour, the gold horns on his helmet, and the curved spear in
his hand, the very same whom Sintram thought he had slain on Niflung's
Heath, now stood before him and laughed: "Thou seest, my youth,
everything in the wide world is but dreams and froth; wherefore hold
fast the dream which delights thee, and sip up the froth which refreshes
thee! Hasten to that underground passage, it leads up to thy angel
Helen. Or wouldst thou first know thy friend yet better?"

His visor opened, and the hateful face of the little Master glared upon
the knight. Sintram asked, as if in a dream, "Art thou also that wicked
enchantress Venus?"

"Something like her," answered the little Master, laughing, "or rather
she is something like me. And if thou wilt only get disenchanted, and
recover the beauty of Prince of Paris,--then, O Prince Paris," and his
voice changed to an alluring song, "then, O Prince Paris, I shall be
fair like thee!"

At this moment the good Rolf appeared above on the rampart; a
consecrated taper in his lantern shone down into the moat, as he sought
for the missing young knight. "In God's name, Sir Sintram," he called
out, "what has the spectre of whom you slew on Niflung's Heath, and whom
I never could bury, to do with you?"

"Seest thou well? hearest thou well?" whispered the little Master, and
drew back into the darkness of the underground passage. "The wise man
up there knows me well. There was nothing in thy heroic feat. Come, take
the joys of life while thou mayst."

But Sintram sprang back, with a strong effort, into the circle of light
made by the shining of the taper from above, and cried out, "Depart from
me, unquiet spirit! I know well that I bear a name on me in which thou
canst have no part."

Little Master rushed in fear and rage into the passage, and, yelling,
shut the iron door behind him. It seemed as if he could still be heard
groaning and roaring.

Sintram climbed up the wall of the moat, and made a sign to his
foster-father not to speak to him: he only said, "One of my best joys,
yes, the very best, has been taken from me; but, by God's help, I am not
yet lost."

In the earliest light of the following morning, he and Rolf stopped up
the entrance to the perilous passage with huge blocks of stone.



CHAPTER 24



The long northern winter was at last ended, the fresh green leaves
rustled merrily in the woods, patches of soft moss twinkled amongst the
rocks, the valleys grew green, the brooks sparkled, the snow melted from
all but the highest mountain-tops, and the bark which was ready to
carry away Folko and Gabrielle danced on the sunny waves of the sea. The
baron, now quite recovered, and strong and fresh as though his health
had sustained no injury, stood one morning on the shore with his fair
lady; and, full of glee at the prospect of returning to their home, the
noble pair looked on well pleased at their attendants who were busied in
lading the ship.

Then said one of them in the midst of a confused sound of talking: "But
what has appeared to me the most fearful and the most strange thing in
this northern land is the stone fortress on the Rocks of the Moon: I
have never, indeed, been inside it, but when I used to see it in our
huntings, towering above the tall fir-trees, there came a tightness
over my breast, as if something unearthly were dwelling in it. And a
few weeks ago, when the snow was yet lying hard in the valleys, I came
unawares quite close upon the strange building. The young knight Sintram
was walking alone on the ramparts as twilight came on, like the spirit
of a departed knight, and he drew from the lute which he carried such
soft, melancholy tones, and he sighed so deeply and sorrowfully...."

The voice of the speaker was drowned in the noise of the crowd, and as
he also just then reached the ship with his package hastily fastened up,
Folko and Gabrielle could not hear the rest of his speech. But the fair
lady looked on her knight with eyes dim with tears, and sighed: "Is it
not behind those mountains that the Rocks of the Moon lie? The unhappy
Sintram makes me sad at heart."

"I understand thee, sweet gracious lady, and the pure compassion of thy
heart," replied Folko; instantly ordering his swift-footed steed to be
brought. He placed his noble lady under the charge of his retainers, and
leaping into the saddle, he hastened, followed by the grateful smiles of
Gabrielle, along the valley towards the stone fortress.

Sintram was seated near the drawbridge, touching the strings of
the lute, and shedding some tears on the golden chords, almost as
Montfaucon's esquire had described him. Suddenly a cloudy shadow passed
over him, and he looked up, expecting to see a flight of cranes in the
air; but the sky was clear and blue. While the young knight was still
wondering, a long bright spear fell at his feet from a battlement of the
armoury turret.

"Take it up,--make good use of it! thy foe is near at hand! Near also
is the downfall of thy dearest happiness." Thus he heard it distinctly
whispered in his ear; and it seemed to him that he saw the shadow of the
little Master glide close by him to a neighbouring cleft in the rock.
But at the same time also, a tall, gigantic, haggard figure passed along
the valley, in some measure like the departed pilgrim, only much, very
much, larger, and he raised his long bony arm fearfully threatening,
then disappeared in an ancient tomb.

At the very same instant Sir Folko of Montfaucon came swiftly as the
wind up the Rocks of the Moon, and he must have seen something of those
strange apparitions, for as he stopped close behind Sintram, he looked
rather pale, and asked low and earnestly: "Sir knight, who are those two
with whom you were just now holding converse here?"

"The good God knows," answered Sintram; "I know them not."

"If the good God does but know!" cried Montfaucon: "but I fear me that
He knows very little more of you or your deeds."

"You speak strangely harsh words," said Sintram. "Yet ever since that
evening of misery,--alas! and even long before,--I must bear with all
that comes from you. Dear sir, you may believe me, I know not those
fearful companions; I call them not, and I know not what terrible
curse binds them to my footsteps. The merciful God, as I would hope, is
mindful of me the while,--as a faithful shepherd does not forget even
the worst and most widely-straying of his flock, but calls after it with
an anxious voice in the gloomy wilderness."

Then the anger of the baron was quite melted. Two bright tears stood in
his eyes, and he said: "No, assuredly, God has not forgotten thee; only
do thou not forget thy gracious God. I did not come to rebuke thee--I
came to bless thee in Gabrielle's name and in my own. The Lord preserve
thee, the Lord guide thee, the Lord lift thee up! And, Sintram, on the
far-off shores of Normandy I shall bear thee in mind, and I shall hear
how thou strugglest against the curse which weighs down thy unhappy
life; and if thou ever shake it off, and stand as a noble conqueror
over Sin and Death, then thou shalt receive from me a token of love
and reward, more precious then either thou or I can understand at this
moment."

The words flowed prophetically from the baron's lips; he himself was
only half-conscious of what he said. With a kind salutation he turned
his noble steed, and again flew down the valley towards the sea-shore.

"Fool, fool! thrice a fool!" whispered the angry voice of the little
Master in Sintram's ear. But old Rolf was singing his morning hymn in
clear tones within the castle, and the last lines were these:--

                  "Whom worldlings scorn,
                   Who lives forlorn,
                   On God's own word doth rest;
                   With heavenly light
                   His path is bright,
                   His lot among the blest."


Then a holy joy took possession of Sintram's heart, and he looked around
him yet more gladly than in the hour when Gabrielle gave him the scarf
and sword, and Folko dubbed him knight.



CHAPTER 25



The baron and his lovely lady were sailing across the broad sea with
favouring gales of spring, nay the coast of Normandy had already
appeared above the waves; but still was Biorn of the Fiery Eye sitting
gloomy and speechless in his castle. He had taken no leave of his
guests. There was more of proud fear of Montfaucon than of reverential
love for him in his soul, especially since the adventure with the boar's
head; and the thought was bitter to his haughty spirit, that the great
baron, the flower and glory of their whole race, should have come in
peace to visit him, and should now be departing in displeasure, in stern
reproachful displeasure. He had it constantly before his mind, and it
never failed to bring fresh pangs, the remembrance of how all had
come to pass, and how all might have gone otherwise; and he was always
fancying he could hear the songs in which after generations would
recount this voyage of the great Folko, and the worthlessness of the
savage Biorn. At length, full of fierce anger, he cast away the
fetters of his troubled spirit, he burst out of the castle with all his
horsemen, and began to carry on a warfare more fearful and more lawless
than any in which he had yet been engaged.

Sintram heard the sound of his father's war-horn; and committing the
stone fortress to old Rolf, he sprang forth ready armed for the combat.
But the flames of the cottages and farms on the mountains rose up before
him, and showed him, written as if in characters of fire, what kind of
war his father was waging. Yet he went on towards the spot where the
army was mustered, but only to offer his mediation, affirming that he
would not lay his hand on his good sword in so abhorred a service, even
though the stone fortress, and his father's castle besides, should fall
before the vengeance of their enemies. Biorn hurled the spear which
he held in his hand against his son with mad fury. The deadly weapon
whizzed past him: Sintram remained standing with his visor raised, he
did not move one limb in his defence, when he said: "Father, do what you
will; but I join not in your godless warfare."

Biorn of the Fiery Eyes laughed scornfully: "It seems I am always to
have a spy over me here; my son succeeds to the dainty French knight!"
But nevertheless he came to himself, accepted Sintram's mediation,
made amends for the injuries he had done, and returned gloomily to his
castle. Sintram went back to the Rocks of the Moon.

Such occurrences were frequent after that time. It went so far that
Sintram came to be looked upon as the protector of all those whom his
father pursued with relentless fury; but nevertheless sometimes his
own wildness would carry the young knight away to accompany his fierce
father in his fearful deeds. Then Biorn used to laugh with horrible
pleasure, and to say: "See there, my son, how the flames we have lighted
blaze up from the villages, as the blood spouts up from the wounds our
swords have made! It is plain to me, however much thou mayst pretend to
the contrary, that thou art, and wilt ever remain, my true and beloved
heir!"

After thus fearfully erring, Sintram could find no comfort but in
hastening to the chaplain of Drontheim, and confessing to him his misery
and his sins. The chaplain would freely absolve him, after due penance
and repentance, and again raise up the broken-hearted youth; but would
often say: "Oh, how nearly hadst thou reached thy last trial, and gained
the victory, and looked on Verena's countenance, and atoned for all! Now
thou hast thrown thyself back for years. Think, my son, on the shortness
of man's life; if thou art always falling back anew, how wilt thou ever
gain the summit on this side the grave?"


Years came and went, and Biorn's hair was white as snow, and the youth
Sintram had reached the middle age. Old Rolf was now scarcely able to
leave the stone fortress; and sometimes he said: "I feel it a burden
that my life should yet be prolonged; but also there is much comfort in
it, for I still think the good God has in store for me here below some
great happiness; and it must be something in which you are concerned, my
beloved Sir Sintram, for what else in the whole world could rejoice me?"

But all remained as it was, and Sintram's fearful dreams at
Christmas-time each year rather increased than diminished in horror.
Again the holy season was drawing near, and the mind of the sorely
afflicted knight was more troubled than ever before. Sometimes, if he
had been reckoning up the nights till it should come, a cold sweat
would stand on his forehead, while he said, "Mark my words, dear old
foster-father, this time something most awfully decisive lies before
me."

One evening he felt an overwhelming anxiety about his father. It seemed
to him that the Prince of Darkness was going up to Biorn's castle; and
in vain did Rolf remind him that the snow was lying deep in the valleys,
in vain did he suggest that the knight might be overtaken by his
frightful dreams in the lonely mountains during the night-time. "Nothing
can be worse to me than remaining here would be," replied Sintram.

He took his horse from the stable and rode forth in the gathering
darkness. The noble steed slipped and stumbled and fell in the trackless
way, but his rider always raised him up, and urged him only more swiftly
and eagerly towards the object which he longed and yet dreaded to reach.
Nevertheless he might never have arrived at it had not his faithful
hound Skovmark kept with him. The dog sought out the lost track for his
beloved master, and invited him into it with joyous barkings, and warned
him by his howls against precipices and treacherous ice under the snow.
Thus they arrived about midnight at Biorn's castle. The windows of the
hall shone opposite to them with a brilliant light, as though some great
feast were kept there, and confused sounds, as of singing, met
their ears. Sintram gave his horse hastily to some retainers in
the court-yard, and ran up the steps, whilst Skovmark stayed by the
well-known horse.

A good esquire came towards Sintram within the castle and said, "God be
praised, my dear master, that you are come; for surely nothing good is
going on above. But take heed to yourself also, and be not deluded. Your
father has a guest with him,--and, as I think--a hateful one."

Sintram shuddered as he threw open the doors. A little man in the dress
of a miner was sitting with his back towards him. The armour had been
for some time past again ranged round the stone table, so that only two
places were left empty. The seat opposite the door had been taken by
Biorn of the Fiery Eyes; and the dazzling light of the torches fell upon
his features with so red a flare, that he perfectly enacted that fearful
surname.

"Father, whom have you here with you?" cried Sintram; and his suspicions
rose to certainty as the miner turned round, and the detestable face of
the little Master grinned from under his dark hood.

"Yes, just see, my fair son," said the wild Biorn; "thou hast not been
here for a long while,--and so to-night this jolly comrade has paid me
a visit, and thy place has been taken. But throw one of the suits of
armour out of the way, and put a seat for thyself instead of it,--and
come and drink with us, and be merry."

"Yes, do so, Sir Sintram," said the little Master, with a laugh.
"Nothing worse could come of it than that the broken pieces of armour
might clatter somewhat strangely together, or at most that the disturbed
spirit of him to whom the suit belonged might look over your shoulder;
but he would not drink up any of our wine--ghosts have nothing to do
with that. So now fall to!"

Biorn joined in the laughter of the hideous stranger with wild mirth;
and while Sintram was mustering up his whole strength not to lose his
senses at so terrible words, and was fixing a calm, steady look on the
little Master's face, the old man cried out, "Why dost thou look at him
so? Does it seem as though thou sawest thyself in a mirror? Now that you
are together, I do not see it so much; but a while ago I thought that
you were like enough to each other to be mistaken."

"God forbid!" said Sintram, walking up close to the fearful apparition:
"I command thee, detestable stranger, to depart from this castle, in
right of my authority as my father's heir,--as a consecrated knight and
as a spirit!"

Biorn seemed as if he wished to oppose himself to this command with all
his savage might. The little Master muttered to himself, "Thou art not
by any means the master in this house, pious knight; thou hast never
lighted a fire on this hearth." Then Sintram drew the sword which
Gabrielle had given him, held the cross of the hilt before the eyes of
his evil guest, and said, calmly, but with a powerful voice, "Worship or
fly!" And he fled, the frightful stranger,--he fled with such lightning
speed, that it could scarcely be seen whether he had sprung through the
window or the door. But in going he overthrew some of the armour, the
tapers went out, and it seemed that the pale blue flame which lighted
up the whole in a marvellous manner gave a fulfilment to the little
Master's former words: and that the spirits of those to whom the armour
had belonged were leaning over the table, grinning fearfully.

Both the father and the son were filled with horror; but each chose an
opposite way to save himself. Biorn wished to have his hateful guest
back again; and the power of his will was seen when the little Master's
step resounded anew on the stairs, and his brown shrivelled hand shook
the lock of the door. On the other hand, Sintram ceased not to say
within himself, "We are lost, if he come back! We are lost to all
eternity, if he come back!" And he fell on his knees, and prayed
fervently from his troubled heart to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Then
the little Master left the door, and again Biorn willed him to return,
and again Sintram's prayers drove him away. So went on this strife of
wills throughout the long night; and howling whirlwinds raged the while
around the castle, till all the household thought the end of the world
was come.

At length the dawn of morning appeared through the windows of the
hall,--the fury of the storm was lulled,--Biorn sank back powerless
in slumber on his seat,--peace and hope came to the inmates of the
castle,--and Sintram, pale and exhausted, went out to breathe the dewy
air of the mild winter's morning before the castle-gates.



CHAPTER 26



The faithful Skovmark followed his master, caressing him; and when
Sintram fell asleep on a stone seat in the wall, he lay at his feet,
keeping watchful guard. Suddenly he pricked up his ears, looked round
with delight, and bounded joyfully down the mountain. Just afterwards
the chaplain of Drontheim appeared amongst the rocks, and the good beast
went up to him as if to greet him, and then again ran back to the knight
to announce the welcome visitor.

Sintram opened his eyes, as a child whose Christmas gifts have been
placed at his bedside. For the chaplain smiled at him as he had never
yet seen him smile. There was in it a token of victory and blessing, or
at least of the near approach of both. "Thou hast done much yesterday,
very much," said the holy priest; and his hands were joined, and his
eyes full of bright tears. "I praise God for thee, my noble knight.
Verena knows all, and she too praises God for thee. I do indeed now dare
hope that the time will soon come when thou mayst appear before her.
But Sintram, Sir Sintram, there is need of haste; for the old man
above requires speedy air, and thou hast still a heavy--as I hope the
last--yet a most heavy trial to undergo for his sake. Arm thyself, my
knight, arm thyself even with bodily weapons. In truth, this time only
spiritual armour is needed, but it always befits a knight, as well as a
monk, to wear in decisive moments the entire solemn garb of his station.
If it so please thee, we will go directly to Drontheim together. Thou
must return thence to-night. Such is a part of the hidden decree, which
has been dimly unfolded to Verena's foresight. Here there is yet much
that is wild and distracting, and thou hast great need to-day of calm
preparation."

With humble joy Sintram bowed his assent, and called for his horse and
for a suit of armour. "Only," added he, "let not any of that armour be
brought which was last night overthrown in the hall!"

His orders were quickly obeyed. The arms which were fetched, adorned
with fine engraved work, the simple helmet, formed rather like that
of an esquire than a knight, the lance of almost gigantic size, which
belonged to the suit--on all these the chaplain gazed in deep thought
and with melancholy emotion. At last, when Sintram, with the help of his
esquires, was well-nigh equipped, the holy priest spoke:

"Wonderful providence of God! See, dear Sintram, this armour and this
spear were formerly those of Sir Weigand the Slender, and with them he
did many mighty deeds. When he was tended by your mother in the castle,
and when even your father still showed himself kind towards him, he
asked, as a favour, that his armour and his lance should be allowed to
hang in Biorn's armoury--Weigand himself, as you well know, intended
to build a cloister and to live there as a monk--and he put his old
esquire's helmet with it, instead of another, because he was yet
wearing that one when he first saw the fair Verena's angelic face. How
wondrously does it now come to pass, that these very arms, which have so
long been laid aside, should be brought to you for the decisive hour of
your life! To me, as far as my short-sighted human wisdom can tell,--to
me it seems truly a very solemn token, but one full of high and glorious
promise."

Sintram stood now in complete array, composed and stately, and, from his
tall slender figure, might have been taken for a youth, had not the deep
lines of care which furrowed his countenance shown him to be advanced in
years.

"Who has placed boughs on the head of my war-horse?" asked Sintram
of the esquires, with displeasure. "I am not a conqueror, nor a
wedding-guest. And besides, there are no boughs now but those red and
yellow crackling oak-leaves, dull and dead like the season itself."

"Sir Knight, I know not myself," answered an esquire; "but it seemed to
me that it must be so."

"Let it be," said the chaplain. "I feel that this also comes as a token
full of meaning from the right source."

Then the knight threw himself into his saddle; the priest went beside
him; and they both rode slowly and silently towards Drontheim. The
faithful dog followed his master. When the lofty castle of Drontheim
appeared in sight, a gentle smile spread itself over Sintram's
countenance, like sunshine over a wintry valley. "God has done great
things for me," said he. "I once rushed from here, a fearfully wild boy;
I now come back a penitent man. I trust that it will yet go well with my
poor troubled life."

The chaplain assented kindly, and soon afterwards the travellers passed
under the echoing vaulted gateway into the castle-yard. At a sign from
the priest, the retainers approached with respectful haste, and took
charge of the horse; then he and Sintram went through long winding
passages and up many steps to the remote chamber which the chaplain
had chosen for himself; far away from the noise of men, and near to the
clouds and the stars. There the two passed a quiet day in devout prayer,
and earnest reading of Holy Scripture.

When the evening began to close in, the chaplain arose and said: "And
now, my knight, get ready thy horse, and mount and ride back again to
thy father's castle. A toilsome way lies before thee, and I dare not go
with you. But I can and will call upon the Lord for you all through the
long fearful night. O beloved instrument of the Most High, thou wilt yet
not be lost!"

Thrilling with strange forebodings, but nevertheless strong and vigorous
in spirit, Sintram did according to the holy man's desire. The sun set
as the knight approached a long valley, strangely shut in by rocks,
through which lay the road to his father's castle.



CHAPTER 27



Before entering the rocky pass, the knight, with a prayer and
thanksgiving, looked back once more at the castle of Drontheim. There
it was, so vast and quiet and peaceful; the bright windows of the
chaplain's high chamber yet lighted up by the last gleam of the sun,
which had already disappeared. In front of Sintram was the gloomy
valley, as if his grave. Then there came towards him some one riding on
a small horse; and Skovmark, who had gone up to the stranger as if to
find out who he was, now ran back with his tail between his legs and
his ears put back, howling and whining, and crept, terrified, under his
master's war-horse. But even the noble steed appeared to have forgotten
his once so fearless and warlike ardour. He trembled violently, and when
the knight would have turned him towards the stranger, he reared and
snorted and plunged, and began to throw himself backwards. It was only
with difficulty that Sintram's strength and horsemanship got the better
of him; and he was all white with foam when Sintram came up to the
unknown traveller.

"You have cowardly beasts with you," said the latter, in a low,
smothered voice.

Sintram was unable, in the ever-increasing darkness, rightly to
distinguish what kind of being he saw before him; only a very pallid
face, which at first he had thought was covered with freshly fallen
snow, met his eyes from amidst the long hanging garments. It seemed that
the stranger carried a small box wrapped up; his little horse, as if
wearied out, bent his head down towards the ground, whereby a bell,
which hung from the wretched torn bridle under his neck, was made to
give a strange sound. After a short silence, Sintram replied: "Noble
steeds avoid those of a worse race, because they are ashamed of them;
and the boldest dogs are attacked by a secret terror at sight of forms
to which they are not accustomed. I have no cowardly beasts with me."

"Good, sir knight; then ride with me through the valley."

"I am going through the valley, but I want no companions."

"But perhaps I want one. Do you not see that I am unarmed? And at this
season, at this hour, there are frightful, unearthly beasts about."

Just then, as though to confirm the awful words of the stranger, a
thing swung itself down from one of the nearest trees, covered with
hoar-frost,--no one could say if it were a snake or a lizard,--it curled
and twisted itself, and appeared about to slide down upon the knight
or his companion. Sintram levelled his spear, and pierced the creature
through. But, with the most hideous contortions, it fixed itself firmly
on the spear-head; and in vain did the knight endeavour to rub it off
against the rocks or the trees. Then he let his spear rest upon his
right shoulder, with the point behind him, so that the horrible beast no
longer met his sight; and he said, with good courage, to the stranger,
"It does seem, indeed, that I could help you, and I am not forbidden to
have an unknown stranger in my company; so let us push on bravely into
the valley!"

"Help!" so resounded the solemn answer; "not help. I perhaps may help
thee. But God have mercy upon thee if the time should ever come when
I could no longer help thee. Then thou wouldst be lost, and I should
become very frightful to thee. But we will go through the valley--I have
thy knightly word for it. Come!"

They rode forward; Sintram's horse still showing signs of fear, the
faithful dog still whining; but both obedient to their master's will.
The knight was calm and steadfast. The snow had slipped down from the
smooth rocks, and by the light of the rising moon could be seen various
strange twisted shapes on their sides, some looking like snakes, and
some like human faces; but they were only formed by the veins in the
rock and the half-bare roots of trees, which had planted themselves in
that desert place with capricious firmness. High above, and at a great
distance, the castle of Drontheim, as if to take leave, appeared again
through an opening in the rocks. The knight then looked keenly at his
companion, and he almost felt as if Weigand the Slender were riding
beside him.

"In God's name," cried he, "art thou not the shade of that departed
knight who suffered and died for Verena?"

"I have not suffered, I have not died; but ye suffer, and ye die, poor
mortals!" murmured the stranger. "I am not Weigand. I am that other, who
was so like him, and whom thou hast also met before now in the wood."

Sintram strove to free himself from the terror which came over him
at these words. He looked at his horse; it appeared to him entirely
altered. The dry, many-coloured oak-leaves on its head were waving like
the flames around a sacrifice, in the uncertain moonlight. He looked
down again, to see after his faithful Skovmark. Fear had likewise most
wondrously changed him. On the ground in the middle of the road were
lying dead men's bones, and hideous lizards were crawling about; and, in
defiance of the wintry season, poisonous mushrooms were growing up all
around.

"Can this be still my horse on which I am riding?" said the knight to
himself, in a low voice; "and can that trembling beast which runs at my
side be my dog?"

Then some one called after him, in a yelling voice, "Stop! stop! Take me
also with you!"

Looking round, Sintram perceived a small, frightful figure with horns,
and a face partly like a wild boar and partly like a bear, walking along
on its hind-legs, which were those of a horse; and in its hand was a
strange, hideous weapon, shaped like a hook or a sickle. It was the
being who had been wont to trouble him in his dreams; and, alas! it was
also the wretched little Master himself, who, laughing wildly, stretched
out a long claw towards the knight.

The bewildered Sintram murmured, "I must have fallen asleep; and now my
dreams are coming over me!"

"Thou art awake," replied the rider of the little horse, "but thou
knowest me also in thy dreams. For, behold! I am Death." And his
garments fell from him, and there appeared a mouldering skeleton, its
ghastly head crowned with serpents; that which he had kept hidden under
his mantle was an hour-glass with the sand almost run out. Death held
it towards the knight in his fleshless hand. The bell at the neck of the
little horse gave forth a solemn sound. It was a passing bell.

"Lord, into Thy hands I commend my spirit!" prayed Sintram; and full of
earnest devotion he rode after Death, who beckoned him on.

"He has thee not yet! He has thee not yet!" screamed the fearful fiend.
"Give thyself up to me rather. In one instant,--for swift are thy
thoughts, swift is my might,--in one instant thou shalt be in Normandy.
Helen yet blooms in beauty as when she departed hence, and this very
night she would be thine." And once again he began his unholy praises of
Gabrielle's loveliness, and Sintram's heart glowed like wild-fire in his
weak breast.

Death said nothing more, but raised the hour-glass in his right hand
yet higher and higher; and as the sand now ran out more quickly, a soft
light streamed from the glass over Sintram's countenance, and then it
seemed to him as if eternity in all its calm majesty were rising before
him, and a world of confusion dragging him back with a deadly grasp.

"I command thee, wild form that followest me," cried he, "I command
thee, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to cease from thy seducing
words, and to call thyself by that name by which thou art recorded in
Holy Writ!"

A name, more fearful than a thunderclap, burst despairingly from the
lips of the Tempter, and he disappeared.

"He will return no more," said Death, in a kindly tone.

"And now I am become wholly thine, my stern companion?"

"Not yet, my Sintram. I shall not come to thee till many, many years are
past. But thou must not forget me the while."

"I will keep the thought of thee steadily before my soul, thou fearful
yet wholesome monitor, thou awful yet loving guide!"

"Oh! I can truly appear very gentle."

And so it proved indeed. His form became more softly defined in the
increasing gleam of light which shone from the hour-glass; the features,
which had been awful in their sternness, wore a gentle smile; the crown
of serpents became a bright palm-wreath; instead of the horse appeared a
white misty cloud in the moonlight; and the bell gave forth sounds as of
sweet lullabies. Sintram thought he could hear these words amidst them:


                  "The world and Satan are o'ercome,
                   Before thee gleams eternal light,
                   Warrior, who hast won the strife:
                   Save from darkest shades of night
                   Him before whose aged eyes
                   All my terrors soon shall rise."


The knight well knew that his father was meant; and he urged on his
noble steed, which now obeyed his master willingly and gladly, and
the faithful dog also again ran beside him fearlessly. Death had
disappeared; but in front of Sintram there floated a bright morning
cloud, which continued visible after the sun had risen clear and warm in
the bright winter sky.



CHAPTER 28



"He is dead! the horrors of that fearful stormy night have killed him!"
Thus said, about this time, some of Biorn's retainers, who had not
been able to bring him back to his senses since the morning of the day
before: they had made a couch of wolf and bear skins for him in the
great hall, in the midst of the armour which still lay scattered around.
One of the esquires said with a low sigh: "The Lord have mercy on his
poor wild soul!"

Just then the warder blew his horn from his tower, and a trooper came
into the room with a look of surprise. "A knight is coming hither,"
said he; "a wonderful knight. I could have taken him for our Lord
Sintram--but a bright, bright morning cloud floats so close before him,
and throws over him such a clear light, that one could fancy red flowers
were showered down upon him. Besides, his horse has a wreath of red
leaves on his head, which was never a custom of the son of our dead
lord."

"Just such a one," replied another, "I wove for him yesterday. He was
not pleased with it at first, but afterwards he let it remain."

"But why didst thou that?"

"It seemed to me as if I heard a voice singing again and again in my
ear: 'Victory! victory! the noblest victory! The knight rides forth
to victory!' And then I saw a branch of our oldest oak-tree stretched
towards me, which had kept on almost all its red and yellow leaves in
spite of the snow. So I did according to what I had heard sung; and I
plucked some of the leaves, and wove a triumphal wreath for the noble
war-horse. At the same time Skovmark,--you know that the faithful beast
had always a great dislike to Biorn, and therefore had gone to the
stable with the horse,--Skovmark jumped upon me, fawning, and seemed
pleased, as if he wanted to thank me for my work; and such noble animals
understand well about good prognostics."

They heard the sound of Sintram's spurs on the stone steps, and
Skovmark's joyous bark. At that instant the supposed corpse of old
Biorn sat up, looked around with rolling, staring eyes, and asked of the
terrified retainers in a hollow voice, "Who comes there, ye people? who
comes there? I know it is my son. But who comes with him? The answer
to that bears the sword of decision in its mouth. For see, good people,
Gotthard and Rudlieb have prayed much for me; yet if the little Master
come with him, I am lost in spite of them."

"Thou art not lost, my beloved father!" Sintram's kind voice was heard
to say, as he softly opened the door, and the bright red morning cloud
floated in with him.

Biorn joined his hands, cast a look of thankfulness up to heaven, and
said, smiling, "Yes, praised be God! it is the right companion! It is
sweet gentle death!" And then he made a sign to his son to approach,
saying, "Come here, my deliverer; come, blessed of the Lord, that I may
relate to thee all that has passed within me."

As Sintram now sat close by his father's couch, all who were in the room
perceived a remarkable and striking change. For old Biorn, whose whole
countenance, and not his eyes alone, had been wont to have a fiery
aspect, was now quite pale, almost like white marble; while, on the
other hand, the cheeks of the once deadly pale Sintram glowed with a
bright bloom like that of early youth. It was caused by the morning
cloud which still shone upon him, whose presence in the room was rather
felt than seen; but it produced a gentle thrill in every heart.

"See, my son," began the old man, softly and mildly, "I have lain for
a long time in a death-like sleep, and have known nothing of what was
going on around me; but within,--ah! within, I have known but too much!
I thought that my soul would be destroyed by the eternal anguish; and
yet again I felt, with much greater horror, that my soul was eternal
like that anguish. Beloved son, thy cheeks that glowed so brightly are
beginning to grow pale at my words. I refrain from more. But let me
relate to you something more cheering. Far, far away, I could see a
bright lofty church, where Gotthard and Rudlieb Lenz were kneeling and
praying for me. Gotthard had grown very old, and looked almost like
one of our mountains covered with snow, on which the sun, in the lovely
evening hours, is shining; and Rudlieb was also an elderly man, but very
vigorous and very strong; and they both, with all their strength and
vigour, were calling upon God to aid me, their enemy. Then I heard a
voice like that of an angel, saying, 'His son does the most for him! He
must this night wrestle with death and with the fallen one! His victory
will be victory, and his defeat will be defeat, for the old man and
himself.' Thereupon I awoke; and I knew that all depended upon whom thou
wouldst bring with thee. Thou hast conquered. Next to God, the praise be
to thee!"

"Gotthard and Rudlieb have helped much," replied Sintram; "and, beloved
father, so have the fervent prayers of the chaplain of Drontheim. I
felt, when struggling with temptation and deadly fear, how the heavenly
breath of holy men floated round me and aided me."

"I am most willing to believe that, my noble son, and everything thou
sayest to me," answered the old man; and at the same moment the chaplain
also coming in, Biorn stretched out his hand towards him with a smile of
peace and joy. And now all seemed to be surrounded with a bright circle
of unity and blessedness. "But see," said old Biorn, "how the faithful
Skovmark jumps upon me now, and tries to caress me. It is not long since
he used always to howl with terror when he saw me."

"My dear lord," said the chaplain, "there is a spirit dwelling in good
beasts, though dreamy and unconscious."

As the day wore on, the stillness in the hall increased. The last
hour of the aged knight was drawing near, but he met it calmly and
fearlessly. The chaplain and Sintram prayed beside his couch. The
retainers knelt devoutly around. At length the dying man said: "Is that
the prayer-bell in Verena's cloister?" Sintram's looks said yea; while
warm tears fell on the colourless cheeks of his father. A gleam shone in
the old man's eyes, the morning cloud stood close over him, and then the
gleam, the morning cloud, and life with them, departed from him.



CHAPTER 29



A few days afterwards Sintram stood in the parlour of the convent, and
waited with a beating heart for his mother to appear. He had seen her
for the last time when, a slumbering child, he had been awakened by her
warm farewell kisses, and then had fallen asleep again, to wonder in his
dreams what his mother had wanted with him, and to seek her in vain the
next morning in the castle and in the garden. The chaplain was now at
his side, rejoicing in the chastened rapture of the knight, whose fierce
spirit had been softened, on whose cheeks a light reflection of that
solemn morning cloud yet lingered.

The inner doors opened. In her white veil, stately and noble, the Lady
Verena came forward, and with a heavenly smile she beckoned her son to
approach the grating. There could be no thought here of any passionate
outbreak, whether of sorrow or of joy.


             "In whose sweet presence sorrow dares not lower
                Nor expectation rise
                Too high for earth."--Christian Year
             (Footnote in 1901 text.)


The holy peace which had its abode within these walls would have found
its way to a heart less tried and less purified than that which beat in
Sintram's bosom. Shedding some placid tears, the son knelt before his
mother, kissed her flowing garments through the grating, and felt as
if in paradise, where every wish and every care is hushed. "Beloved
mother," said he, "let me become a holy man, as thou art a holy woman.
Then I will betake myself to the cloister yonder; and perhaps I might
one day be deemed worthy to be thy confessor, if illness or the
weakness of old age should keep the good chaplain within the castle of
Drontheim."

"That would be a sweet, quietly happy life, my good child," replied the
Lady Verena; "but such is not thy vocation. Thou must remain a bold,
powerful knight, and thou must spend the long life, which is almost
always granted to us children of the North, in succouring the weak, in
keeping down the lawless, and in yet another more bright and honourable
employment which I hitherto rather honour than know."

"God's will be done!" said the knight, and he rose up full of
self-devotion and firmness.

"That is my good son," said the Lady Verena. "Ah! how many sweet calm
joys spring up for us! See, already is our longing desire of meeting
again satisfied, and thou wilt never more be so entirely estranged from
me. Every week on this day thou wilt come back to me, and thou wilt
relate what glorious deeds thou hast done, and take back with thee my
advice and my blessing."

"Am I not once more a good and happy child!" cried Sintram joyously;
"only that the merciful God has given me in addition the strength of
a man in body and spirit. Oh, how blessed is that son to whom it is
allowed to gladden his mother's heart with the blossoms and the fruit of
his life!"

Thus he left the quiet cloister's shade, joyful in spirit and richly
laden with blessings, to enter on his noble career. He was not content
with going about wherever there might be a rightful cause to defend or
evil to avert; the gates of the now hospitable castle stood always open
also to receive and shelter every stranger; and old Rolf, who was almost
grown young again at the sight of his lord's excellence, was established
as seneschal. The winter of Sintram's life set in bright and glorious,
and it was only at times that he would sigh within himself and say,

"Ah, Montfaucon! ah, Gabrielle! if I could dare to hope that you have
quite forgiven me!"



CHAPTER 30



The spring had come in its brightness to the northern lands, when one
morning Sintram turned his horse homewards, after a successful
encounter with one of the most formidable disturbers of the peace of
his neighbourhood. His horsemen rode after him, singing as they went. As
they drew near the castle, they heard the sound of joyous notes wound on
the horn. "Some welcome visitor must have arrived," said the knight; and
he spurred his horse to a quicker pace over the dewy meadow. While still
at some distance, they descried old Rolf, busily engaged in preparing
a table for the morning meal, under the trees in front of the
castle-gates. From all the turrets and battlements floated banners and
flags in the fresh morning breeze: esquires were running to and fro
in their gayest apparel. As soon as the good Rolf saw his master, he
clapped his hands joyfully over his grey head, and hastened into the
castle. Immediately the wide gates were thrown open; and Sintram, as he
entered, was met by Rolf, whose eyes were filled with tears of joy while
he pointed towards three noble forms that were following him.

Two men of high stature--one in extreme old age, the other grey-headed,
and both remarkably alike--were leading between them a fair young boy,
in a page's dress of blue velvet, richly embroidered with gold. The two
old men wore the dark velvet dress of German burghers, and had massive
gold chains and large shining medals hanging round their necks.

Sintram had never before seen his honoured guests, and yet he felt as if
they were well known and valued friends. The very aged man reminded him
of his dying father's words about the snow-covered mountains lighted up
by the evening sun; and then he remembered, he could scarcely tell how,
that he had heard Folko say that one of the highest mountains of that
sort in his southern land was called the St. Gotthard. And at the same
time, he knew that the old but yet vigorous man on the other side was
named Rudlieb. But the boy who stood between them ah! Sintram's humility
dared scarcely form a hope as to who he might be, however much his
features, so noble and soft, called up two highly honoured images before
his mind.

Then the aged Gotthard Lenz, the king of old men, advanced with a solemn
step, and said--"This is the noble boy Engeltram of Montfaucon, the only
son of the great baron; and his father and mother send him to you, Sir
Sintram, knowing well your holy and glorious knightly career, that
you may bring him up to all the honourable and valiant deeds of this
northern land, and may make of him a Christian knight, like yourself."

Sintram threw himself from his horse. Engeltram of Montfaucon held the
stirrup gracefully for him, checking the retainers, who pressed forward,
with these words: "I am the noblest born esquire of this knight, and the
service nearest to his person belongs to me."

Sintram knelt in silent prayer on the turf; then lifting up in his arms,
towards the rising sun, the image of Folko and Gabrielle, he cried,
"With the help of God, my Engeltram, thou wilt become glorious as that
sun, and thy course will be like his!"

And old Rolf exclaimed, as he wept for joy, "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy
servant depart in peace."

Gotthard Lenz and Rudlieb were pressed to Sintram's heart; the chaplain
of Drontheim, who just then came from Verena's cloister to bring a
joyful greeting to her brave son, stretched out his hands to bless them
all.





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